Default Encryption: Apple and Google's Latest Marketing Ploy
A couple of weeks ago, the mere mortals who lead the voracious giants of technology -- Google and Apple -- announced that they were striking a blow for protection against NSA spying by making "encryption" the default on Google cell phone software (which is used on most cell phones) and THEY software used on Apple mobile devices.
This affects equipment like the ubiquitous cell phone, although it is also relevant to some handheld computers and similar portable equipment.
The idea would be that your data on these devices would always be encypted -- appearing as unintelligble nonsense to anyone looking at it without a key to "decrypt" it. You use a password and, bingo!, you can read what you stored. Without the password, it looks like a bunch of bizarre symbols. This would now be the "default". While you could encrypt if you chose to up to now, you will now have to consciously choose not to; encryption will be automatic unless you turn it off.
The point of all this is that, since these companies would not be able to read your encrypted data, they can't turn over legible data when the government orders them to. Since the government orders them to turn over data constantly, that's a pretty big change.
But how real is it? Such concern for user data seems to conflict with the history of both behemoths. For exampple, the National Security Agency has long taken advantage of Google's remarkable policy of reading its users' email and data, purportedly for marketing purposes and to "make users' experience easier". That stored data has been a plum for the NSA which gets it with the company's cooperation via court order or by using sneaky programs to intercept messages and search data on-line.
Although not a data storage company, Apple's programs move data and interact with storage services. Its iPhone, one of the world's most popular hand-held devices, uses a lot of Google software as well as much of its own programming. Through cell phone technology, these two companies are the major sources of NSA-gathered information. Google gives the government copious information stored on most cell phones and Apples does the same for its powerhouse iPhone.
So savvy critics are wondering if this latest announcement is really a pledge to privacy or the latest in the long string of cynical marketing ploys that have made these outfits the powerhouses they are.