Google, the world’s most popular and powerful search engine, is under fire from Congress and regulatory officials for its recent adoption of a new internet encryption protocol. The web search and app company, famous for its sometime motto, “Don’t be evil,” found itself in hot water over its recent introduction of the so-called “DNS-over-HTTPS” standard.
The New Browser Standard
DNS-over-HTTPS is a form of encryption that aims to cover a loophole in the HTTPS framework. When a user requests access to a web page, that request, and the information on the page, get transmitted over a potentially huge number of routers, any one of which has access to the data. HTTPS aims to keep the web safer by encrypting these packets of information so that only the server that hosts the website and the user have access to it.
While this has made data transmission over the web a great deal more secure, it has left out some important pieces of information. For instance, the user’s initial server request gets transmitted across routers without encryption, allowing the routers’ operators to see the request. DNS-over-HTTPS aims to encrypt this piece of information.
Why It’s a Concern
The new standard has officials wondering if it would give Google a competitive advantage by allowing the company to use individuals’ data for commercial purposes. This would constitute both an affront to privacy and a possible antitrust issue.
Privacy has become a major issue after a long spate of recent massive data breaches at corporate behemoths such as Facebook and government agencies like the IRS. The widespread use of lax security systems has enabled hackers to grab personally identifiable information from large organizations, including sexual orientation and Social Security Numbers.
An antitrust issue arises from Google’s access to data. If the search company has access to information that it can restrict from DNS providers, it will shut them out of the competition in a number of areas such as advertising.
What Google Has to Say
The Google company vehemently denies that it has any ulterior motives, and insists that the measure is purely about security and intended to prevent spying and spoofing. They point out that users will have the ability to turn the encryption off.
As a company spokesperson recently put it, “Google has no plans to centralize or change people’s DNS providers to Google by default. Any claim that we are trying to become the centralized encrypted DNS provider is inaccurate.”
While telecom agencies and government officials are alarmed by the new policy, not everyone is equally worried. For instance, sometime Google competitor Mozilla is implementing a similar encryption standard.
What the Leaders are Doing
Google currently faces investigation by the House Judiciary Committee, who are also investigating other tech giants such as Facebook and Apple for potential antitrust abuses. The Justice Department has also signaled it may begin an investigation. Most tech giants have recently faced scrutiny for privacy and security problems and the misuse of data.
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