Fewer than 10% of the world’s 1.4 billion Android devices are encrypted. This is compared to the 95% of Apple’s iPhones, which has been a hot topic for the past few weeks after the San Bernardino shooting. Experts say that if the shooter used an Android device, the investigation would have gone a little differently as investigators would have had a better chance accessing data.
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As much as security is a concern, Google have resisted the urge to make device encryption mandatory, as it is afraid of chasing away device makers. Handset makers have not been encrypting their devices, as they believe that scrambling contacts, and photos and videos, hurts the device’s performance. The Wall Street Journal reports on this issue.
Google lets device makers use Android as long as they abide by certain requirements such as making use of Google Maps and other Google-related software. On the other hand, Apple strictly controls its iOS software by forcing updates, further increasing protection and encryption. This is where the problem arises as law enforcement can easily get into an Android device within just an hour of trying to crack a passcode using specialized software. According to the Wall Street Journal, Google complied with 63% of 65,500 government requests for user data in the last 12 months ending in June 2015.
Google has started clamping down on device makers in later devices. Any device running Android 6.0 or Marshmallow, with a high-powered processor, requires it to be encrypted. This means that in a few years time, Android could be sitting in the same boat as iOS in terms of device protection. The Samsung Galaxy S7 for example is encrypted, as well as the latest LG G5.
It all comes down to the device maker. If the device’s performance will be affected by encryption, then why would they want to do it? Regardless, with Google making it mandatory for high-end devices, we could all have an encrypted device soon.