The Wikimedia Foundation has turned HTTPS encryption on by default in a bid to protect its 500 million users from digital surveillance.
Wikimedia senior legal counsel Yana Welinder, legal council Victoria Baranetsky and operational engineer Brandon Black announced the move in in blog post, listing it as a key move in the Foundation's efforts to protect user data.
"Today, we're happy to announce that we are in the process of implementing HTTPS to encrypt all Wikimedia traffic. We will also use HTTP Strict Transport Security to protect against efforts to ‘break' HTTPS and intercept traffic," read the blog.
HTTPS is a common encryption protocol designed to protect data passing between the web user's computer and website servers.
The encryption makes it harder for intelligence agencies to read the information using techniques like man-in-the-middle attacks.
"Encryption makes it more difficult for governments and other third parties to monitor your traffic. It also makes it harder for ISPs to censor access to specific Wikipedia articles and other information," explained the blog post.
HTTPS, and encryption in general, is viewed as one of the most effective ways for individuals and service providers to keep data hidden from intelligence agencies and cyber criminals.
The Wikimedia legal team said that the Foundation chose to turn HTTPS on by default in a bid to allay privacy concerns.
"We believe encryption makes the web stronger for everyone. In a world where mass surveillance has become a serious threat to intellectual freedom, secure connections are essential for protecting users around the world," read the blog post.
Concerns about government surveillance erupted in 2013 when whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked documents to the press detailing the NSA's PRISM mass surveillance campaign.
The privacy issues escalated when the UK and US government revealed plans to pass new legislation that would hamper companies' ability to encrypt data in a way that intelligence agencies and law enforcement could not read.
The move led over 140 companies, including Google, Microsoft and Facebook, to send a letter to the White House urging president Obama to block the legislation.
Wikimedia said that it will share the technology used to turn HTTPS on by default in a bid to help other companies make the same move.
"We've been carefully calibrating our HTTPS configuration to minimise negative impacts related to latency, page load times and user experience," read the blog post.
"We look forward to sharing a more detailed account of this unique engineering accomplishment once we're through the full transition."
Wikimedia is one of many organisations moving to HTTPS. Ironically, the US government began publicly backing HTTPS across its websites earlier in June despite its stance on encryption in the private sector.