In what seems to be a response to increased anxiety about the privacy of data stored online among both consumers and businesses following revelations of extensive spying by US government agencies, Google announced that Google Cloud Storage, a service used by third-party developers to build cloud apps, now automatically encrypts all data before it is written to disk. Google is not charging anything extra for the service.
Users of Cloud Storage do not need to configure or modify the way they access the service—though if developers were previously managing their own encryption, they may want to reprogram their apps to save themselves the work.
The data is encrypted automatically with a unique key under the 128-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES-128). Users who prefer to manage their own keys are encouraged to continue encrypting their data personally before writing it to the cloud. This new feature is active on all new data written to the cloud. Older data will be encrypted over the next few months.
Google’s announcement comes on the heels of concerns that the National Security Agency and other US agencies overstepped their legal authorities in conducting surveillance over data networks. But Google is also playing catch-up with other cloud-storage platforms like Amazon. That company implemented server-side encryption on its Amazon S3 storage service in 2011.