Apple dropped iCloud backup encryption plans after FBI objections – report

Apple is on a privacy charm offensive right now, with an advertising campaign that lets iPhone users know in no uncertain terms their data belongs to them and is safe with the company. You can see the ad currently airing on TV embedded below.

However, it’s not clear how that moral high ground squares with a new Reuters report that claims Apple dropped plans to let iPhone users fully encrypt their iCloud backups, without the enabling the company to have a key to unlock them.

According to six sources speaking to the news agency, Apple had intended to do so until the FBI raised objections. The report says Apple dropped the plans around two years ago, despite its publicly held position as the tech world’s lone defender of modern smartphone users’ data.

Apple has long defended the iCloud position, saying their ability to access the data is important when customers lose the ability to access their accounts.

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CEO Tim Cook is on record as saying: “Our users have a key and we have one. We do this because some users lose or forget their key and then expect help from us to get their data back.” (via The Verge)

Apple is currently embroiled in a public row with the Trump administration over its refusal to unlock the phones of criminal suspects. Trump himself said the phones are being used by “killers, drug dealers and other violent criminal elements,” intimating Apple is indirectly protecting lawbreakers.

So, as long as your data remains on the device, it appears Apple might be upholding its PR position of keeping everything out of the realms of those who’d wish to profit from your data. Once things go to iCloud things aren’t quite as locked down, at least in terms of encryption.

According to one source speaking with Reuters Apple decided “they weren’t going to poke the bear anymore,” while referring to the FBI.

The turning point may have been the alleged terrorist attack in San Bernadino, USA back in 2015, following which Apple engaged in a very public spat with the Feds over its refusal to hand over the passcode to the iPhone owned by the purported perpetrator.

Apparently, the report says Apple was eventually won over to the FBI’s line of thinking. The source claimed the charge of heart was “because Apple was convinced. Outside of that public spat over San Bernardino, Apple gets along with the federal government.”

Apple has not commented on what could prove to be a quiet damaging report.

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