With everything going on surround the NSA and privacy, a lot of people are nervous about just about every form of security. The latest is Wi-Fi passwords. Michael Horowitz of Computer World is reporting that Google knows all the Wi-Fi passwords that are stored on your Android devices. He states that in Android 2.3.4, if you go to Settings/Privacy and choose “Backup my settings” it will backup your Wi-Fi password on Google servers. Now fast forward to Android 4.2. If you go to Settings/Backup and reset, the option for “Backup my data” specifically says, “Backup application data, Wi-Fi passwords, and other settings to Google servers.”
Also take a look at this snippet from the Android 2.3.4 users guide (page 374)…..
Check to back up some of your personal data to Google servers, with your Google Account. If you replace your phone, you can restore the data you’ve backed up, the first time you sign in with your Google Account. If you check this option, a wide variety of you personal data is backed up, including your Wi-Fi passwords, Browser bookmarks, a list of the applications you’ve installed, the words you’ve added to the dictionary used by the onscreen keyboard, and most of the settings that you configure with the Settings application. Some third-party applications may also take advantage of this feature, so you can restore your data if you reinstall an application. If you uncheck this option, you stop backing up your data to your account, and any existing backups are deleted from Google servers.
Something similar is stated in the Galaxy Nexus user guide (page 97)….
If you check this option, a wide variety of your personal data is backed up automatically, including your Wi-Fi passwords, Browser bookmarks, a list of the apps you’ve installed from the Market app, the words you’ve added to the dictionary used by the onscreen keyboard, and most of your customized settings. Some third-party apps may also take advantage of this feature, so you can restore your data if you reinstall an app. If you uncheck this option, your data stops getting backed up, and any existing backups are deleted from Google servers.
Obviously Google encrypts the information that is stored on their servers, but they can decrypt the info if the NSA wants it. I personally don’t have a problem with that. Again, if you are a criminal, than I really don’t care. My concern is hacks. If someone can hack into Google’s servers, could they potentially get my Wi-Fi password and do something malicious to me? This is not necessarily an issue with Google, as this is the case with just about any cloud service you use. Many people use other online cloud services to store other personal passwords and files. I personally don’t think someone is sitting at these companies and looking at all my information. Who am I that they would care? The only concern to me is hackers. Now if you are going to trust someone to keep your information safe from hackers (not necessarily the NSA), Google is probably the one company that you can.
Google did make the following comment….
Our optional ‘Backup my data’ feature makes it easier to switch to a new Android device by using your Google Account and password to restore some of your previous settings. This helps you avoid the hassle of setting up a new device from scratch. At any point, you can disable this feature, which will cause data to be erased. This data is encrypted in transit, accessible only when the user has an authenticated connection to Google and stored at Google data centers, which have strong protections against digital and physical attacks.
So you can opt out, but does Google still have access to your plain text file stored on your phone? I have no idea, and again for Google to go after that, it would mean the person is considered dangerous, and again, I don’t have a problem with that. If you are truly concerned, than I would opt out of backing up such data, but if you do, be sure to change your Wi-Fi password. It’s not a 100% guarantee, but it’s your best defense.