The Washington Post reports that Google’s Android mobile operating system is following in the footsteps of Apple’s iOS. Apple recently announced that iOS 8 (released Wednesday) has encryption that the company cannot break, which means that it could not give iOS users’ data to law enforcement officials with a valid warrant. The Post reports:
The next generation of Google’s Android operating system, due for release next month, will encrypt data by default for the first time, the company said Thursday, raising yet another barrier to police gaining access to the troves of personal data typically kept on smartphones.
Android has offered optional encryption on some devices since 2011, but security experts say few users have known how to turn on the feature. Now Google is designing the activation procedures for new Android devices so that encryption happens automatically; only somebody who enters a device’s password will be able to see the pictures, videos and communications stored on those smartphones. […]
The move, which Google officials said has been in the works for many months, is part of a broad shift by American technology companies to make their products more resistant to government snooping in the aftermath of revelations of National Security Agency spying by former contractor Edward Snowden.
Expanded deployment of encryption by Google and Apple, however, will have the most direct impact on law enforcement officials, who have long warned that restrictions on their access to electronic devices make it much harder for them to prevent and solve crimes. In April the Supreme Court ruled that police needed search warrants to gain access to data stored on phones in most circumstances. But that standard is quickly being rendered moot; eventually no form of legal compulsion will suffice to force the unlocking of most smartphones.