Don’t Be EvilWhile Google for a long time has stated its ‘don’t be evil’ pledge, recent events are cause for concern who believe that Google owes them the same duty of privacy as the government, and possibly even more of a duty than Uncle Same does. But that is simply not true, and as we have seen with the introduction of “Rank Brain,” the company has made more assertive efforts to track and utilize user’s information. This tracking acceleration seems to have been unleashed after the decision to make the parent company “Alphabet” was announced. This week the New York City District Attorney’s office issued a report on smartphone encryption. New York City has a special concern over electronic devices, especially as they may relate to organized crime and terrorism. In the report, there was a previously-unreported factoid that should send shivers down the spine to all citizens who inherited the “less government is more freedom” legacy of our founding fathers.
The NY DA’s office stated that:
Not only can Google reset the password for Android cellphones and tablets, the company also has the stunning ability to access the data on these devices remotely. Never has this fact been advertised by the company. This is especially concerning, considering Google’s constant statements regarding the privacy of their accounts and products. Some versions of Lollipop appear to have an ‘opt-out’ encryption mode that most users do not utilize. This comes right as Apple’s CEO Tim Cook stated flatly that there ‘is no back door for the good guys.’ Apple refuses to de-encrypt over civil liberties concerns, as reported by ArsTechnica. It is still unclear how many times this backdoor access has been used. While Google’s access may only be used in accordance with a warrant, it also could be used with the federal government’s warrant-less national surveillance program. Furthermore, this unknown system could also be used by the company or elements within to track users or to glean information. The fact that specific files can be manipulated has many implications– all of which are bad. As with many forms of backdoors and misuse of technology, this appears to be just the beginning of a long road.
“Google can reset the passcodes when served with a search warrant and an order instructing them to assist law enforcement to extract data from the device. This process can be done by Google remotely and allows forensic examiners to view the contents of a device.”