US-based Apple wanted to allow iPhone users to create a completely encrypted backup of their phones on the cloud. The plan was to save this backup in the company’s iCloud service. However, the company reportedly dropped the plan after the FBI complained that the move would harm investigative procedures, according to Reuters. Encrypting all cloud-based backups would have made it harder for the FBI to track down criminal activities.
For long, Apple has put itself forward as a brand that puts customer privacy above all else. However, the tech giant has been willing to help US law enforcement and intelligence agencies by providing user data. If Apple went ahead with the iCloud encrypted backup plan, it basically wouldn’t have the key to unlock devices at will.
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The matter came to attention recently last week when US Attorney General William Barr publicly called Apple to unlock two iPhones. The phones were reportedly used by a Saudi Air Force officer who shot dead three Americans at a Florida Naval Base. The company did turn over the shooter’s iCloud backups. Further, the company rejected characterizations that it provided substantive assistance.
Apple told the FBI that it planned to provide users with end-to-end encryption in iCloud backups over two years ago. Soon after, representatives from the FBI’s operational technology division approached Apple for the same. According to the various sources who reported to Reuters, the end-to-end encryption had then been dropped.
Why did Apple drop the plan?
According to a source, the company did not want to risk being attacked by public officials. Apple has been accused of moving accessible data out of reach for government agencies or used as an excuse for new legislation against encryption. For instance, US President Donald Trump took a hit at the brand on Twitter. He accused the brand of refusing to unlock phones used by “killers, drug dealers and other violent criminals”. Other senators in the US had also threatened legislation against Apple citing unrecoverable evidence of crimes.