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Google announced a few days ago that they are now in the process of encrypting all the information stored in their data centers. They hope that this will prevent the NSA and foreign intelligence agencies from accessing user data. If they are successful, this plus the encryption of an anonymous VPN service will work together to stop government snooping.
Google Data Encryption Plan
The plan to encrypt Google user data has been in place since last year. It was approved and ready to go, but is only now being implemented. The sudden rush to complete the encryption was spurred by the beating Google has been taking over data sharing with the NSA. They are making the move as a form of damage control so they can preserve their reputation with regard to user data privacy.
There is tons of data on Google data centers all over the world. The encryption process is going to take time. But this move shows that news of NSA spying has made a huge impact on tech companies. Google is not the only tech giant implicated as a participant in US government snooping. But such a massive initiative to show that they are concerned about protecting user privacy is a sign that the industry has been hit hard. Users are no longer trusting these companies with their data. This has hurt them a lot in terms of growth potential.
Google Encryption and Anonymous VPNs
Some people doubt that data encryption is going to guard their privacy. It may just give users a false sense of security. With or without encryption, Google still holds the key to the stored information. They can decrypt and share data anytime, or share the decryption keys. Others are hopeful that the data encryption will be an effective measure against agencies that have pressured companies like Google to hand over user data. At this stage it is predicted that the majority of privacy conscious Internet users will continue to use anonymous VPN services and other privacy tools. Encrypting the data stored on Google servers is not seen as a solution to online snooping. It is generally viewed as a public relations move, and at best a speed bump that might help to lessen snooping activities.
Many users know that the data encryption will not prevent agencies from taking the information of individual users. The encryption will protect data flowing through Google’s international data centers. But intelligence agencies will still be able to snoop on individual users of Google services. Users will need to learn how to disconnect themselves from these services and continue using anonymous VPN services to stay under the radar. Once their personal data lands in a Google server, there is no way of keeping it completely safe from the data miners.
The encryption will also not change the law regarding data sharing with the government. The company will still have to comply with court orders and national security requests for data. It is still hoped, however, that by making mass surveillance more difficult, encryption will discourage the practice. Any agency requesting data from Google will have to go through the correct channels to obtain it. This will make them think twice, security experts say, about the importance of the data they seek before making the request.
Anonymous VPNs can help secure user privacy by shielding their locations. Internet service providers will no longer be able to link user traffic to IP addresses. This will greatly reduce the probability of names, addresses and contact information being linked to specific online activities. And if users are careful about what personal information they give to Internet services, they can maintain their privacy through anonymous VPN services.
Google faces the best players in online tracking and data snooping. US government agencies and sophisticated foreign government hacking teams are very skilled at getting what they want. Google data isn’t sought out by British intelligence alone, but is also coveted by state-sponsored hacker groups in China, Russia, and Israel. These groups will continue to search for ways to overcome the hindrances posed by data encryption. One big possibility is getting their hands on the encryption keys to decode communications. Another tool available to them is super-computers that can break the codes through brute force attacks. They can also influence encryption standards to make them more vulnerable to attacks.
Meantime, the encryption of all the data on Google servers along with anonymous VPN use will help keep users secure online. There’s no telling how fast these government agencies will be able to get over this hurdle, but it’s a start. And efforts to overcome the encryption will use a vast portion of their resources. This will either minimize actual surveillance activities or make the agencies turn from the data centers to individual computers to get the data they want. The encryption initiative will limit the ability of governments to cast the dragnet to scoop up massive amounts of data. They will have to focus their resources on tracking the high-priority targets and leave most ordinary Internet users alone. For those users who somehow get mistakenly associated with intelligence targets, there is still hope. Everyday Internet users do not have the resources to build impregnable forts around their systems, but the encryption this puts user privacy back in their hands. With caution and anonymous VPN services, users will still be able to keep the snoops at bay.