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Google(s goog) may soon give greater prominence in its search results to websites that use encryption, a move that would indirectly make it more difficult for hackers or governments to track what people do on the internet.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Google executive Matt Cutts suggested at a recent conference that the search giant is considering an algorithmic boost for websites that encrypt data.
Web developers consider Cutts’s public statements to be significant because they telegraph forthcoming changes to the all-important Google rankings, although the story also suggests that Google will not making any changes in favor of encryption anytime soon.
Cutts’s proposal comes after tech companies like Google and Yahoo have moved to encrypt more data in response to controversy over NSA spying revelations. Encryption means that it’s much harder for outside parties to “listen in” as data travels between company website and user computers, but — as the ongoing scare over the Heartbleed bug shows — it’s not perfect.
Any Google decision to emphasize encryption in search results would ripple widely because so many developers design websites in accordance with Google’s best practices.