If You've Heard of End-to-End Encryption but Have No Idea How to Do It, Google Wants to Help

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
June 4 2014 6:07 PM

If You've Heard of End-to-End Encryption but Have No Idea How to Do It, Google Wants to Help

endtoend
The original end-to-end encryption.

Photo from Shutterstock.

Google wants to show that it cares about user privacy. So the company has made grand—and appreciated—gestures like encrypting emails at all times while on in-house servers. And a new Chrome extension will help all users make super secure communication connections regardless of how tech-savvy they are.

End-to-End is Google's aptly named attempt to make end-to-end encryption (E2EE) easier. Generally with E2EE, one party encrypts data (like an email) so that it can be decrypted only by the intended recipient. Then it stays encrypted until that recipient decrypts it. No third parties have access to the data, and it isn't decrypted at any other time. But the problem with services that facilitate end-to-end encryption—the one Google is trying to solve—is that they're difficult to use, often prohibitively so. That's why Edward Snowden was part of the Cryptoparty movement before he got too, um, busy. At Cryptoparties, people can learn to use encryption techniques like PGP for email or Tresorit for cloud storage.

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End-to-End is still in the alpha phase, so it isn't available for download yet except for testing by the Google developer community. But if it passes security muster, it will be available for receiving all of your most sensitive kitten footage from your informant.

At this point, Google wants developers to know how serious it is about motivating them to find bugs in End-to-End. As security and privacy product manager Stephan Somogyi wrote in a blog post: "We mean it: our Vulnerability Reward Program offers financial awards for finding security bugs in Google code, including End-to-End." There's more on the technical makeup of End-to-End here, or you can just save all the videos of your kitten failing to jump up on the bed for End-to-End's public release. You can't let those fall into the wrong hands.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.

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