The FBI has expressed ‘deep concern’ over Apple’s plans to offer end-to-end encryption on more elements of iCloud – including the backups of iPhones and iMessage chats.
The opt-in Advanced Data Protection feature, announced by Apple this week, will offer watertight protection of iCloud data, which only users can decrypt using their trusted devices.
It means, in theory, not even Apple can access the data once it has been encrypted. That makes it almost impossible for Apple to comply with requests from law enforcement agencies for access to suspects’ messages, photos and more.
Apple complies with these requests on a case-by-case basis at the request of the agencies and the company says there are “thousands” each year, but users with Advanced Data Protection enabled will be far less susceptible. The Feds say this will seriously hinder the agency’s efforts to clamp down on the threat of terrorism, organised crime and other serious crimes.
The FBI told the Washington Post it was “deeply concerned with the threat end-to-end and user-only-access encryption pose.”
A statement read: “This hinders our ability to protect the American people from criminal acts ranging from cyber-attacks and violence against children to drug trafficking, organised crime and terrorism.
“In this age of cybersecurity and demands for ‘security by design,’ the FBI and law enforcement partners need ‘lawful access by design.’”
The situation illustrates the tightrope Apple must walk, as it prioritises user security amidst an ever-growing threat of cyber-attacks, while also protecting those same people by working with law enforcement agencies to help apprehend dangerous criminals.
“Apple makes the most secure mobile devices on the market. And now, we are building on that powerful foundation,” said Ivan Krstić, Apple’s head of Security Engineering and Architecture in a Newsroom post announcing the feature, on December 7. “Advanced Data Protection is Apple’s highest level of cloud data security, giving users the choice to protect the vast majority of their most sensitive iCloud data with end-to-end encryption so that it can only be decrypted on their trusted devices.”