Last month, Google launched an encrypted version of its Web search, allowing users to enable a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connection to encrypt their information. Like several other Google products that feature SSL encryption, including email and Docs, Google touted this move as a step towards enhancing users' privacy and security.


Update: Google spokeperson Kat Eller contacted ReadWriteWeb with this statement: "We're aware that encrypted search can create difficulties for some educational institutions using other Google services. We're very sorry for the inconvenience, and are working to identify a solution as fast as possible. An imperfect and temporary fix is to enable our SafeSearch lock feature."

But as the encrypted searches mean that data cannot be logged, filtered, or blocked, Google's new secure search runs afoul of CIPA, the Children's Internet Protection Act. And with the service's beta release, many schools are now facing some difficult decisions in how to respond.

CIPA requires schools to monitor, and in some cases block, certain websites. And while filtering is not necessarily a popular tactic (the American Library Association and the ACLU have sought to overturn the law), schools and libraries receiving federal E-rate funding must comply.

Typically, schools and filtering companies respond to an "offending" site by blocking access to it. However, in this case, blocking Google's encrypted search is complicated by the potential ripple effects. Namely, a number of important services that schools utilize also exist at the https://www.google.com domain, including most notably Google's Apps for Education.

In an email to its customers, education network security company Lightspeed Systems offers these "solutions": blocking Google's secure searches or redirecting Google Web requests to Bing. Lightspeed Systems is developing a plan to block encrypted Google searches by policy, although the company notes, "due to Google's method of implementing its secure sites, this may cause other Google services to be unavailable. As a policy setting, you will be able to turn on the restriction for those who need it and turn it off for those that need reliable access to services such as Gmail or Google Docs."

Many educators, frustrated that these repercussions weren't considered before this feature launched, hope that Google will develop a workaround, including the possibility of moving the encrypted search to a different subdomain. We've contacted Google for a comment and will update when it responds.

Photo credits: Flickr user Morgaine