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Google reportedly testing Drive encryption to thwart government spying

Google Drive encryption
Drive has it all - docs, spreadsheets, presentations, government

Google's cloud service contains everything you want - and sometimes what you don't want, like the government spying on you through the Prism surveillance program, for example.

That's why the search engine giant is reportedly testing out encryption for all Google Drive files, according to CNET.

Sources claim that only a small percentage of your cloud-based files stored on the Mountain View company's servers are currently encrypted. That could change in the future.

"Mechanisms like this could give people more confidence and allow them to start backing up potentially their whole device," said Electronic Frontier Foundation Senior Staff Technologist Seth Schoen in the report.

Driving at encryption

While a user's Google Drive contents are said to be transferred with encryption, most of it sits on the company's servers in unencrypted form.

This is due to expense, time and complexity of file indexing - hence why only a small portion of Drive files get the encryption treatment.

However, the immediate benefit of securing all of Drive is that Google would not have to turn over private files to spy agencies like the NSA.

The government may have to Google suspects the old-fashioned way. Or continue to use SkyDrive.

Tales from the encrypt keeper

Encrypting files in the cloud is something Microsoft reportedly tried to do with Outlook.com emails.

The problem is that Microsoft is said to have still helped - or been compelled to help - the U.S. government seek the information it wanted, even though Outlook.com emails were protected.

Not so, said Microsoft, which disputed the account laid out by documents leaked by Edward Snowden. The documents called its Prism cooperation with the FBI a "team sport."

Microsoft claims that Outlook.com messages sit in an unencrypted state on its servers, which makes its emails and SkyDrive files just as vulnerable to government intrusion as Google Drive right now.

That means Google still has a chance to become the first major internet company to offer government-proof cloud storage service.

Matt Swider

US Editor-in-Chief

Matt Swider is TechRadar's gadget-savvy, globe-trotting US Editor-in-Chief Editor who leads the US team in New York City. He began his tech journalism career all the way back in 1999 at the ripe at of 14, and first started writing for TechRadar in 2012. He's tested over 1,000 phones, tablets and wearables and commands a Twitter account of 600,000+ followers. Matt received his journalism degree from Penn State University and is never seen without his TechRadar headphones.