The next generation of Google's Android operating system -- known as Android L -- will have data encryption turned on by default, according to The Washington Post. This move puts Google in the same company as Apple, which this week unveiled a new privacy strategy that makes it harder for anyone but an iPhone's owner to access content on such devices.
Default encryption for Android and iOS essentially takes Google and Apple out of the equation when it comes to law enforcement and government agencies' efforts to access content on a person's mobile device. Such efforts have been widely criticized by technology companies since former National Security Agency contract employee Edward Snowden revealed how much personal data the NSA has been able to intercept via phones and online communications around the world.
While many Android devices already provide users with an encryption option, those running the updated Android L operating system -- set for release in October -- will have that option activated automatically. That means only a person with the device's password will be able to view stored content like text messages, photos and videos.
Bypass 'Not Technically Feasible'
With encryption switched on by default and passwords residing only with an Android device's owner, Google will not have any way to bypass that person's security, even if it were to be served with a warrant by authorities. The same holds true for Apple devices running the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system, iOS 8.
"On devices running iOS 8, your personal data such as photos, messages (including attachments), e-mail, contacts, call history, iTunes content, notes, and reminders is placed under the protection of your passcode," the Apple Web page says. "Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data. So it's not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8."
Cloud Still Vulnerable
While Google is taking the same approach as Apple, Android devices will not be as quick or easy to update as iPhones are, The Washington Post points out. That's because Apple maintains control over both its device software and hardware, while Android devices are manufactured and distributed by many different companies around the world.
As the article notes, "it will take many months and probably years before most Android devices have encryption by default."
Other observers have pointed out that encryption by default will not ensure the security of mobile device data that is stored in the cloud. Law enforcement and government agencies could still request the release of data stored on a cloud service provider's servers. Cloud-based storage has also proven vulnerable to hackers, as evidenced by the release in August of nude photos stolen from several celebrities' iCloud backups.
Posted: 2014-10-18 @ 3:21am PT
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Posted: 2014-09-19 @ 7:14pm PT
The 3GS was encrypted by default.