Android’s recent announcement that the new version of its operating system – Android L – will be equipped with default encryption was compared to a similar announcement made earlier by Apple in response to controversial law enforcement and NSA data collection activities. But a major difference was largely overlooked in the coverage of the two companies’ statements.

Apple took further steps to protect a user’s privacy; Android made no such pledge. 

A look at Android’s encryption announcement:

Both companies announced that their respective operating systems will soon be equipped with a default data encryption setting (although Apple will implement this change more quickly with the release of iOS 8). This modification aims to limit government access to data through contentious collection practices. Facebook, Dropbox, Microsoft, Google and other technology companies have been entangled in a long-standing clash with federal, state, and local governments over how individual data can be collected and used without individual consent. Encrypting data could mean that technology providers will generally be unable to comply with government requests for access to an individual’s data.

To that end, the majority of users are unaware of how and when their personal data is accessed via email, mobile devices or network transmissions. Over the past two years, as the public learned more about law enforcement and spying agencies accessing data, government entities faced new questions. Many Americans are uncomfortable with government agencies having an entrée into their personal information. The key question: why doesn’t this unease seem to carry over to private entities as well?

Distinctions in the fine print:

Apple’s default encryption announcement contained a notable distinction in the fine print. They promised not to read the content of your email messages. Not only will Apple’s default encryption protect your email from being accessed by governmental entities without permission, but Apple will not retrieve or use the content of your email for their own purposes. 

Android’s announcement did not offer the same protection to users. They did not make the same pledge which could be related to the fact that Google’s main source of revenue is derived from ad placements based on the content of user emails and searches.

Educating consumers and public sector to make informed choices:

Today’s consumers deserve complete information to make informed decisions about which platform to use. For the public sector agencies today who are embracing the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, it is increasingly important for public sector technology providers to disclose the potential use of data. These disclosures should be communicated to users in simple terms that not only explain the policy, but also divulges the potential implications of data sharing. Tech companies operating under similar models should also include a similar pledge to refrain from reading user emails.

After all, if the goal is to protect individual privacy from public sector entities, individuals should also have the right to keep their data confidential from private enterprise.

Evans serves as an independent director for NIC, an outside manager for Accenture, a director for the Council on Cybersecurity as well as the Center for Internet Security. She also consults for a number of companies in and outside the tech sector including Microsoft and Lockheed Martin.