It seems that the big players in cyberworld are becoming very twitchy about public perceptions of their somewhat lackadaisical attitude to personal security: last week, Google announced that its new Android “L” OS will feature automatic data encryption built-in just a day after Apple announced that its new iOS 8 shields users data with passwords that Apple can’t decrypt (even if they’re confronted with a court order).
Since 2011, Android OS devices have featured data encryption as an optional feature. The new incarnation will be the first time that encryption is included by default. And it’s clear that both Apple and Google are concerned that their former casual approach to private data is being viewed with increasing disapproval. In July, Apple revealed that its personnel could access data stored on unlocked Apple devices, and we all know how Google came out of NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Council’s mass collection of email and phone communications.
Which is possibly why Google’s statement included this comment:
“For over three years Android has offered encryption, and keys are not stored off of the device, so they cannot be shared with law enforcement.”
“As part of our next Android release, encryption will be enabled by default out of the box, so you won’t even have to think about turning it on.”
In similar vein, Apple CEO Tim Cook recently declared:
“I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will.”
Apple has been publicly ramping up its commitment to privacy and security – and subtly badmouthing Silicon Valley competitors who have adopted a far too cosy relationship with third parties in respect of personal information. Google hasn’t been mentioned by name, but it’s obvious who they had in their sights.
In a bid to demonstrate its chastened and reformed character, Google is engaging with Yahoo on an initiative to provide end-to-end encryption on all their webmail services AND making them compatible with the encryption package Google is developing for Gmail.
All of a sudden, snooping and sharing are out, privacy and security are in.