Tuesday 25 May 2010

HPPT? Oh, S ...

Those remarkably clever engineers at Google have come up with a cunning wheeze that’s bound to put lots of net snoopers off the scent. In giving users the option of being able to encrypt the requests it makes to its search engine, the guys and gals at Google have taken another step towards making it harder for anyone else to track the search items that are used to find other sites.

Farewell, HTTP. Hello, HTTPS!

What this change does is that it removes the ability of webmasters to understand how a user landed up on their webpage. Apparently, webmasters won’t even know whether the user had used a search engine, or had merely types in the actual web page into the address bar. Google will, but the others won’t.

Damm clever, huh!

Presumably it will make it harder for webmasters to customise sites, depending on the referrer information. Whether this really will have an impact on the overall customer experience, only time will tell. But it will make it harder for other interested parties, such as internet service providers, to peep over the fence, so to speak, to fully understand what their users do when they leave the servers that are controlled by the internet service provider themselves, and instead roam the wider web. (Put another way, and speaking bluntly, if you can only monetise what you can understand, it looks as though Google have found a way of making it harder for others to monetise this stuff).

And if Google are leading this secure revolution, just how close behind are those who follow? Will it be very long before every user can expect every webmaster to provide them with a secure connection each time they visit that server? To bolderise a couple of lines from one of my favourite plays:

"O YouTube, Facebook,
wherefore art thou Hotmail?"

If this ubiquitous encryption malarkey really takes off, then presumably the guys patrolling the surveillance society will have their work really cut out. Life will never be as transparent as it has previously been.

Unless all this encryption stuff comes with a back door (which I doubt).

Perhaps there is still life left in Article 8(1) of the Human Rights Act, which declares that “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.”

The trouble is, I haven’t a clue how much easier, or harder, it will make life for public authorities to exercise their rights, as expressed in Article 8(2), to interfere “with the exercise of this right [when it is...] in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others."

But I hope I’ll find out, eventually.