Google just released SSL Search to beta. Earlier today, it was being selectively rolled out and wasn’t available to everyone. It appears to be more widely available now; at least, it works for me. With end-to-end SSL encryption, your searches are now completely private. Here’s what Google has to say in their Help article:
With Google search over SSL, you can have an end-to-end encrypted search solution between your computer and Google. This secured channel helps protect your search terms and your search results pages from being intercepted by a third party. This provides you with a more secure and private search experience.
To use the new feature, you have to explicitly enter https://www.google.com each time you want to perform a secure search. Google Images and Google Maps are not available over SSL yet. Also note that due to SSL overhead, you may notice that such searches are not as fast as regular searches. Google has created a new search logo (see below) to let you know when you’re using the new feature, but it’s good practice to make sure you see the lock icon in your browser and https:// in the address bar.
Google plans to make SSL the default but they first want to see how it affects users’ search experience and gather feedback. Hence the beta designation. Yahoo and Bing haven’t implemented encryption in their engines.