Dec 17, 2014 · 1 minute

Google has moved End-To-End, an experimental tool meant to bring end-to-end encryption to the company's Gmail service, over to GitHub so it can be scrutinized by independent groups.

End-To-End is part of Google's efforts to improve its image after it was implicated in the global surveillance programs revealed over the last year-and-a-half. It was one of several companies accused of including backdoors in their products for intelligence agencies to exploit -- a claim which has been vehemently denied -- and was also the target of a NSA program meant to intercept consumer information as it was transferred between Google's data centers.

Including End-to-End encryption, which makes it so messages can be viewed only by their senders and recipients, in Gmail is a good way for Google to combat the NSA revelations' deleterious effect on its reputation. The idea is that even Google can't decrypt the emails, removing the risk of the company sharing the emails' contents with government agencies.

End-To-End isn't quite ready for public use. Google says in its announcement of the changes that the extension has been made available so researchers can see what the company plans to do with the tool; it won't be offered to the public until the company fixes some of its problems.

Still, it's heartening that Google has made it easier for security professionals to audit this tool before its official release. Consumers are rightly wary of tech companies' ability to secure their data, either because they've been asked to put backdoors in their products or because they're incompetent, and making the tool's source code available to others could help ease those fears.

End-To-End won't offer much solace to those worried about Google's increasing efforts to snoop on consumers via fitness trackers, home thermostats, and Internet-connected cameras. The company relies on advertisements and the data that informs them -- unless that changes, and it probably isn't going to, Google's for-profit surveillance system will remain in place.

But hey, at least the tool will help Google send a big "Fuck off" to the NSA, the FBI, and other government agencies that want to access private communications. That's better than nothing.