Privacy has become paramount in the minds of users, as well as tech companies. Last year, Google chairman Eric Schmidt noted that encryption was the only real way to keep user data out of the hands of governments. With the release of a Google USB security key, that’s a possibility.
Google already uses two-factor authentication to protect its users. However, that system isn’t without its problems, so Google has decided to add an additional layer of encryption to the process by replacing a text message and input code with a USB device. It checks for an authentic connection to Google services, and encrypts the communication, rendering it essentially unphishable, according to TechCrunch.
This key doesn’t encrypt your Internet connection, make you invisible or anything else particularly revolutionary. It does, however, speak to Google’s larger strategy. Since Edward Snowden leaked data on the PRISM program, tech companies have been working to earn back user trust. Google has been doing this by pushing back against government secrecy.
In addition to this, companies have started to realize that security and privacy are marketable features. Google has even considered adding a security ranking to its search results to safeguard users from blundering into unsafe websites and services.
The desire of the government to both keep its activity secret and to abuse the tools provided by digital technology runs contrary to the aims of social networks. The networks realize that giving in to government demands could turn users away, so they’re taking legal actions to protect themselves.
To wit, adding a USB key to the two-step authentication process is a relatively simple step Google can take that could win points from fans. Likewise, it could stymy attempts to gain access to a user’s Google account — government investigators included. Another small piece added to the security and privacy puzzle.