THE THREAD-STARTER WROTE: But what if I'm just reading a news site? Everyone has access to that, it's all over newspapers even. What's the point of encrypting such easily accessible information?
MY RESPONSE: Yes, everything on the news site is public; but would you feel comfortable with someone standing over your shoulder while your with your computer at a coffee shop, using its WI-FI, for example seeing which articles you choose to read? And what if the news site nevertheless has a login so that readers may customize the feed? Doesn't that part of what you do there need to be encrypted? Between the two things, it's easier for the site owner to just encrypt everything.
THE THREAD-STARTER WROTE: Many users have public social network profiles with their interests listed in them, political and religious beliefs, or that information can be easily found from their personal blogs and websites. They don't see that as a threat to their personal life, so they choose not to hide it. How can viewing non-encrypted popular public content harm them? And how does encrypting such pages protect their privacy?
MY RESPONSE: Some of them don't care about their privacy. They have, as psychologist Sherry Turkle put it, an "I share, therefore I am" sort of mentality. In any case, as with the previous example, even they who so freely share must login to said pages to change things, no? And their so doing must be encrypted, no? Additionally, those who read their informationn may not want others in the coffee shop where they're using their laptop to know that they're looking at so-and-so's social networking page.
Learn about what's called "sidejacking," wherein someone sitting at another table with his/her laptop, in a coffee shop where you're also using your laptop, with both of you on the same WI-FI LAN, can be using a simple Mozilla Firefox extension called "Firesheep" to "see" on his/her screen, everything you're doing on your computer at your table on the other side of the room. Or s/he can be using his/her android phone, and a little thing called "DroidSheep" to accomplish much the same thing. And there are other similiarly-nefarious tools.
Would their doing that to you be okay with you? Right about when you figure out that they are, wouldn't it be nice if the website you're using just happened to have SSL turned-on, and your access to said site were via https:// instead of mere http://?
That's why Firefox and Chrome extensions like "HTTPS Everywhere" exist: to automatically switch thousands of sites from insecure "http" to secure "https", thereby protecting you from many forms of surveillance and account hijacking/sidejacking; and in countries less free than the US, even some forms of censorship.
All websites, anymore, should be utilizing SSL for all content. Period. It should be as normative as that we must put on chothing before we leave the house.
Hope that helps!