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Google to offer encrypted search next week

In response to its disclosure that it spied on public Wi-Fi networks through Street View, the company announced plans to encrypt Google search starting next week.

Google plans to offer encrypted search next week, it announced Friday in disclosing an embarrassing Street View privacy gaffe.

Google's Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience, hinted that such a feature was coming Thursday during a question and answer session at Google's annual stockholder meeting. But the company must have decided it could no longer wait following the disclosure that it had improperly collected Internet usage data from Wi-Fi hot spots as part of its Google Street View program.

"Earlier this year, we encrypted Gmail for all our users, and next week we will start offering an encrypted version of Google Search," Google said in its blog post Friday on the Street View issue. Google encrypted all Gmail accounts in response to the hacking incidents that prompted its decision to move its Chinese-language search operation from Beijing to Hong Kong.

On Thursday, Mayer and Google CEO Eric Schmidt essentially told attendees to "watch this space" when it came to encrypted search. Friday's revelations forced their hand. Expect to hear much more about this next week at Google I/O.

Google declined to comment on how the encrypted search feature would work.

Google began encrypting Gmail traffic using HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) by default in January after offering it as an option since mid-2008. It's likely Google will now do the same thing with traffic to

"That's nice. We definitely need to see more encrypted Web traffic in general," said Marc Maiffret, chief security architect at security firm FireEye, when told of Google's plans to offer an encrypted version of its search site. "Now, if you are on an airport Wi-Fi or other public network everything you search for is in the clear."

CNET's Elinor Mills contributed to this report.