Spot the padlock! Google introduced Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption for searches last summer (in beta, of course), and it seems to becoming more stable now. This SSL site allows anyone to carry out a search without the content of that search being made available to any third party or ISP.
There have been a growing number of stories about ‘sniffing’ in cafes and public spaces over wi-fi networks to intercept what people are looking at on their computers, and this SSL beta is particularly good for that scenario. However, it is important to remember that SSL is only functional on secure sites, which are shown by the https protocol, so any sites that you receive outside of these secure areas, e.g. the sites you visit after conducting a search, could be visible.
To access the SSL Beta, just type in https://encrypted.google.com
Currently, only Google Search is available so the normal toolbar offering images, video, news etc is currently missing until these are added. Once you have searched for a specific term, the options will re-appear in the left hand pane.