Multiple tech companies like Apple, Facebook, WhatsApp, Google and Snapchat, have reportedly been working on privacy technology to further encrypt user data and information, reports The Guardian. We’ve written to Facebook and Google for comments and will update this if we hear from them.
Companies have been working on this before the San Bernardino shooting took place, Guardian says. It adds that WhatsApp plans to encrypt voice calls over the coming weeks, while Facebook’s Messenger is considering upping its security as well, Snapchat is also working on a secure messaging system, and Google on encrypted email. This move comes in the light of the Apple-FBI case going on since last month, where the FBI is asking Apple to create a backdoor into its iOS operating system to gain data on the user of the San Bernardino shooting.
Victim relatives ask for data, tech cos rally for data protection
Earlier this month, relatives of some of the people killed in the attack filed their own brief, siding with the FBI and arguing that accessing the phone may help answer questions about the attack. The same day, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and other technology companies filed court briefs as a show of support for Apple. Overall over 40 companies and organizations, other that individuals, submitted more than a dozen briefs to the Federal District Court for the District of Central California. They even spoke against the 227 year old All Writs Act, which gives courts power to issue orders that do not fall under a pre-existing law.
Removal of apps that store user info
Readers would remember that last October, Apple removed over 250 apps from its App Store that used software from a Chinese advertising firm which secretly accessed and stored users’ personal information. Apple’s policy does not allow for apps that can collect personal information like how long the user is using a particular app for etc. However, the apps including this code somehow got through Apple’s app review process and were apparently unnoticed on the market for nearly two years. While Apple was pretty swift at taking down the suspicious apps once aware of the issue, there is no telling if similar exploits are being used by malicious developers to get private data.
MediaNama’s take: User data encryption is always appreciated. Like Nikhil pointed out in an editorial this morning, it’s necessary that our data belong to us, imperative that we work on systems which ensure user privacy and not make humans anywhere vulnerable. Yes, data is everywhere and yes, companies have a hold of it, but users have agreed to a certain set of terms and conditions to give this data. And in return, they expect privacy. Companies like Google, which run on advertising, will obviously use that data to provide user-relevant ads based on multiple factors. However, if every government asked every company to hand over user data as a norm, we’d be better off without using any technology at all. And that’s not an indicator of progress.