Facebook, Google, and Snapchat are reportedly upping their own privacy technology, as Apple awaits a March 22 hearing on its case against the FBI.
The news comes after President Barack Obama told a tech-centric audience at South By Southwest on Friday that he doesn’t think Apple can take an “absolutist” view on encryption.
The encryption projects all began well before the FBI asked that Apple unlock an iPhone belonging to San Bernardino shooter, Syed Farook. But there may still be some penalties against the companies that remain vigilant about giving up user data — with U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Richard Burr drafting related legislation. Obama also said during his South By Southwest keynote on Friday that, “there needs to be some concession to get into that information somehow” to prevent crime and terrorist attacks.
Google, Facebook, Snapchat, Amazon, Microsoft, and Twitter, among others have all signed legal briefs supporting Apple’s position: That the company won’t assist the FBI in unlocking the iPhone 5C, as it would set a dangerous legal precedent for governmental access to private phones.
Here’s a rundown of what we know so far about the encryption projects these tech companies are building:
The company has been developing several safety measures, including Chrome’s HTTP insecure (unencrypted) website alerts and email encryption extensions. In June 2014, Google announced the email encryption Chome plugin called End-to-End, which scrambles the data of an email message, making it unreadable to third parties until it reaches the recipient and decodes the message. Google released a trial version on GitHub in December 2014.
Facebook and WhatsApp
The messaging app allegedly used to coordinate the Paris attacks in November 2015, WhatsApp, is known for being strict on encrypting all messages between users. Under Facebook’s newest plans, all voice calls on the app will also be encrypted. Facebook may also add more security to its Messenger app.
Not many details are known about Snapchat’s plans, but they involve improved security on the messaging system. What we know about Snapchat’s current encryption protocol is that it encrypts messages with a symmetric key, enabling encryption of larger messages. Yet the symmetric key is the same for each message and is embedded in each mobile application, making it easy for an attacker to hack the data.