Google has released the source code for a new extension for Chrome — but this is no ordinary extension. It's called End-to-End, and it will provide users with the ability to encrypt their email the whole way from outbox to recipient.
The new system uses the open-source encryption standard OpenPGP and should make it easy for users to read encrypted emails that arrive in their inbox. Clearly, it will require both sender and receiver use End-to-End or another encryption tool — but the idea here is to make encryption more accessible. Google explains:
While end-to-end encryption tools like PGP and GnuPG have been around for a long time, they require a great deal of technical know-how and manual effort to use. To help make this kind of encryption a bit easier, we're releasing code for a new Chrome extension that uses OpenPGP, an open standard supported by many existing encryption tools.
Open PGP remains remarkably labour-intensive and technically difficult to decrypt, so this is very much a flick of the bird to the NSA. The snag? You won't find End-to-End in the Chrome Web Store for a while. Instead, it's releasing the code so that devs, engineers and other wildly enthusiastic early adopters can test and evaluate it, to make sure it's user-friendly, bug-free and secure.
There's no word on when End-to-End will turn into a freely available extension, but those with a little know-how can already use it. The rest of us will have to wait a little while. But there's no doubting the fact that when Google does roll this feature out in full, it will make end-to-end encryption way, way more widely used — and that's a wonderful thing. [End-to-End]