When Apple made its big privacy push on Thursday, it struck me as a great move that was likely to spur rivals to try compete with the iPhone maker more overtly on that front. And wouldn’t you know it – hours later, Google told the Washington Post that the upcoming Android L will have encryption turned on by default.
Like [company]Apple[/company]’s iOS 8, Android L will apparently make it impossible for the software vendor to bypass the user’s passcode to decrypt the data stored on the device – so if the cops or the feds come knocking, tough, there’s nothing Apple nor [company]Google[/company] can do to help them. The authorities can still come to you directly, of course, but they can’t access your data remotely without you knowing about it (unless they also hack into a computer you’ve paired your device with.)
Google already offers on-device encryption, but it isn’t activated by default. However, according to Google spokeswoman Niki Christoff, “encryption will be enabled by default out of the box, so you won’t even have to think about turning it on.” This has apparently been “in the works for many months” but gosh, what good timing.
As the piece notes, though, the “L” release of Google’s operating system won’t roll out as quickly to Android users as iOS 8 will to iPhone and iPad users. The first to get L will be those with Nexus and perhaps Android One devices – beyond that, it’s up to the manufacturers to roll it out, once they’ve incorporated their own proprietary treats.
Still, it sounds like a good move on Google’s part – let’s see the details before taking that enthusiasm further – and a promising sign that vendors now realize customers want privacy guarantees, along with the reality to back them up.
Thank you Edward Snowden, and remember folks, it’s over to you now to choose a strong passcode and turn off automated cloud synchronization if you really want to keep your data to yourself. The beauty of encrypting what’s on the phone is that your passcode is the key (or rather, is used to generate the key), but Google and Apple still hold the keys to what’s stored in their clouds, and the feds can make them give those up.