Yahoo announced Thursday that it will become part of Google's encrypted email initiative intended to protect messages from hackers and the government alike.
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Google plans to launch a secure system by next year that will make it extremely difficult for government officials or hackers to snoop on emails, the Wall Street Journal reported. If the system works according to plan, even the email providers will be unable to remove encryption from the messages.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based search giant announced in June that it planned to develop the secure email system to protect its 425 million Gmail users. Yahoo's addition to the project means 110 million Yahoo Mail users could have encrypted messages next year. The companies said the encryption tool will be an optional feature that email users can turn on.
Following the revelations from NSA contractor Edward Snowden last year, technology companies have been working to protect user privacy. In another move, Google additionally announced on Thursday that encrypted websites will be ranked higher in search results.
The changes are breaking what was a "public-private surveillance partnership," Bruce Schneier, a longtime cybersecurity researcher and chief technology officer at Co3 Systems Inc., told the Journal.
"What's going to happen when the FBI goes to Google or Yahoo and says, 'I want the email from this guy,' and Google or Yahoo says, 'We can't give it to you?'" Schneier said.
Usually rivals, Google and Yahoo engineers have been communicating on a regular basis to further the project, sources at both companies told the Journal.