Your Wikipedia searching and browsing is about to get a lot more private, as the online encyclopedia written by everyone is turning on encryption by default. The adoption of the HTTPS protocol (which is now in place on most major sites across the Web) means it’s much harder for third parties to snoop on your browsing activities on the site.
The aim is to make unwarranted surveillance and even censorship more difficult for those shady organizations who want to see what we’re reading or prevent access to sensitive material. Anyone listening in or monitoring traffic will be able to see that you’re visiting Wikipedia without being able to determine the specific pages or sections you’re interested in.
“The HTTPS protocol creates an encrypted connection between your computer and Wikimedia sites to ensure the security and integrity of data you transmit,” writes the Wikipedia team. “Encryption makes it more difficult for governments and other third parties to monitor your traffic. It also makes it harder for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to censor access to specific Wikipedia articles and other information.”
“With this change, the nearly half a billion people who rely on Wikipedia and its sister projects every month will be able to share in the world’s knowledge more securely.”
Wikipedia parent company Wikimedia says secure access is one of its priorities in an age when privacy and data collection are such contentious topics. The organization has been working on encrypting its sites since 2011 it says, and recently took the step of suing the NSA for its mass surveillance program — a program that “erodes the original promise of the Internet” according to Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
Wikimedia says its HTTPS protocols have been built to ensure access that’s as fast as possible for users, despite the extra encryption involved — even if those users are on slow connections. Look out for the green padlock icon in your browser over the next week or two.