Friday 13 June 2014

Can Google's New End-to-End Push Industry Standards Forward?

Last week, when we supported the #ResetTheNet campaign, we provided our Gold VPN free for a month to encourage as many users as possible to start using a VPN or allow them to upgrade to one that was faster and more helpful.

The intent behind the RTN campaign was to encourage individuals to take action to protect themselves, but another main goal of the campaign was to encourage companies (like us) to help “reset” the complacency and lack of knowledge that characterizes internet privacy issues en masse.  Privacy experts like ACLU’s Ben Wizner have observed that while individual action can curb the harmful effects of invasive practices, it is industry that needs to take the lead on these matters.

Last week, Google participated in RTN with SumRando and other companies by unveiling a new solution that could help their users better encrypt their data.  Google has been the target of extensive criticism the past several years, but their new “End to End” Chrome extension seeks to make encryption easier for a larger group of users.  Given its size and market share, Google could help inspire other companies to follow suit.

Google's End-to-End Encryption Solution
But how viable is this to conquer the market?  As Information Week reports, End to End is not ready for mainstream use quite yet:

Google's encryption software is not yet ready for mainstream use. The company is offering it as alpha code so it can be tested. Those who find bugs in the code can submit them for a possible reward through the company's Vulnerability Reward Program.

When End-to-End is ready to be released, Google plans to offer it through its Chrome Web Store as a Chrome browser extension. End-to-End is based on OpenPGP, an open protocol for encrypting messages through public key cryptography.

Given how much Google relies on their customers’ data for ad use, they will likely employ strategies to maintain their strategic edge while better encrypting data.  IW shared the following:

Google's embrace of encryption will have a downside for the company: Messages encrypted on Google's servers cannot be scanned, eliminating their use as a source of ad-targeting data. However, given how much Google already knows about its users and the fact that it expects only the security-conscious minority to install its encryption software, the company's ability to target ads isn't likely to be much degraded.

Read more about Google’s new encryption solution at Information Week or Google's code hub.

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