When you perform legal research using online tools, you leave a trace of the information you seek. Whether you are using a client or party name or topical keywords related to your matter, your keywords are logged by search engines. In fee-based databases, it is just the publisher who tracks this information; on the Web, each Web site you visit will see your search terms. More importantly, if you are using an insecure network, like a home or coffee shop wireless network, other people may be able to tap into your search stream and see what you are researching. The reality is that online research in fee-based or free tools is relatively focused, so searches are unlikely to divulge much on their own.
There may still be some times that you want to keep your search encrypted, though. In the past, this has meant encrypting your entire online experience, using a virtual private network (VPN) or connecting only to Web sites using the secure sockets layer. On those sites, the Web address changes from http:// to https://, reflecting an encrypted connection.
If you add that s to Google’s address – https://www.google.com/ – you will arrive at Google’s new encrypted search service, which has just moved to beta. It is hard to know whether this is a trend in search and how long it will be in beta. But it means that when you search, your search terms are not available to third parties, whether the sites that you visit online or people around you who might be able to see your online activity. There may be some research where, just for peace of mind, you will feel better trying the encrypted Google for your research.