Google On Board To Defend Privacy, Android L Encryption Enabled By Default

Among all the different things Google is introducing in Android L, the next major version of Android, the one that will be of most interest to anyone concerned about privacy is the default setting for encryption. It will be the first version of Android to enable the setting by default, which means that a password will be required to view pictures, messages, and other data stored on the phone or tablet.

Encryption has actually been an optional feature in Android since 2011, though it's not turned on by default. And since many users don't know how to enable it -- or that the setting even exists -- there are a lot of unsecured Android phones and tablets out there. That will change with Android L.

Apple did something similar with iOS 8. The Cupertino outfit made it clear this week that it has never worked with any government agency to create a backdoor into its devices or services. Furthermore, Apple claims that it has no way to decrypt devices running iOS 8, and thus wouldn't be able to comply with a wiretap order even it wanted to.

Android L Devices

Google wants to offer Android users the same peace of mind. Even with search warrants in hand, it would be difficult for law enforcement officials to extract data from encrypted devices without a password.

"For over three years Android has offered encryption, and keys are not stored off of the device, so they cannot be shared with law enforcement," said company spokeswoman Niki Christoff. "As part of our next Android release, encryption will be enabled by default out of the box, so you won't even have to think about turning it on."

The downside to this is that it will take some time for Android L to be installed on a significant number of Android devices, as new builds aren't pushed out to all devices at once. It takes some time for device makers and carriers to add their own tweaks and validate new Android OSes before doling them out to users.