Google to encrypt data on new version of Android by default

Encryption has been optional since 2011, but Android L, due out later this year, will include activation procedures for automatic encryption.

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The next version of Android will for the first time encrypt data by default, Google confirmed Thursday, preventing both thieves and law enforcement officials from gaining access to personal information on the devices running the web giant's mobile operating system.

While data encryption has been optional on Android smartphones and tablets system since 2011, Android L, which is expected to be released to the public in the next few months, will have new activation procedures that will encrypt data automatically. The revelation comes a day after Apple revealed that data stored on devices running iOS 8, the latest version of its mobile operating system, are protected by users' personal passcodes that Apple can't bypass, even if presented with a court order.

"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," Google said in a statement. "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 move, which was first reported by the Washington Post, emerges as Apple CEO Tim Cook has become increasingly vocal in criticism of how its Silicon Valley brethren handle their customers' personal information, especially chief competitor Google without naming names. During a televised interview with Charlie Rose broadcast earlier this week, Cook said Apple has taken a " very different view" about the collection of customer information than other companies and that customers "are not our product."

Apple has ramped up its public emphasis on privacy and security since the release of several private, nude images of celebrities pilfered from Apple iCloud accounts. While Apple determined its security architecture was not responsible for the leak, Cook said the company would bolster its security alert system on the online storage service and has offered tips for creating stronger passwords.

Tech titans are making encryption a bigger priority than before in the aftermath of revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that the National Security Agency conducted bulk collection of phone and email communications. Yahoo and Google are engaged in an initiative to not only add end-to-end encryption to their webmail services but make them compatible with the end-to-end encryption that Google is working on for Gmail.

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