Google Inc. said last fall that the latest version of its Android operating system, Android L 5.0 or “Lollipop,” would arrive to consumers fully encrypted. However, that is not the case with most new Android smartphones, like the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the Moto E.
The search giant had announced the decision shortly after Apple said it would encrypt all iPhones by default with its latest operating system, iOS 8. Encryption makes it virtually impossible to access private data stored on a device without the software key, and governments around the world have objected to its use.
Google still requires manufacturers to support encryption with their phone hardware, although its activation before the device arrives in the hands of the consumers is not required. This is due to performance issues with the devices, according to Ars Technica.
“While this requirement is stated as SHOULD for this version of the Android platform, it is very strongly RECOMMENDED as we expect this to change to MUST in the future versions of Android,” Google advises Android manufacturers in a guideline.
Google’s own Nexus 6 smartphone and Nexus 9 tablet both ship with encryption enabled by default, but new units from manufacturers like Motorola and Samsung are appearing at the annual Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, Spain this week without the privacy feature, Ars Technica reports.
“For over three years Android has offered encryption, and keys are not stored off of the device, so they cannot be shared with law enforcement,” Google spokeswoman Niki Christoff told The Washington Post last year. “As part of our next Android release, encryption will be enabled by default out of the box, so you won’t even have to think about turning it on.”
Government agencies around the world have objected to Apple and Google’s decision to encrypt devices running their software. British Prime Minister David Cameron said that encryption should be banned, and FBI Director James Comey warned that it poses a serious threat to law enforcement and is a “public safety problem.”