The FBI isn’t happy about Apple’s expansion of end-to-end encryption to iCloud

Yesterday, Apple announced a host of new security technologies for its platforms, including extending end-to-end encryption to additional iCloud data types. However, in response to the announcement, Apple is already facing criticism from the FBI, who said it was “deeply concerned about the threat posed by end-to-end encryption and user-access-only encryption.”

The FBI Isn’t Happy With Apple (Again)

Apple and the FBI have had more than their fair share of controversies before. Notably, the FBI asked Apple to build a backdoor into an iPhone in 2016 to unlock the iPhone used by the San Bernadino shooter. Apple refused to comply with this request, calling it “an unprecedented step that threatens the security of our customers.”

While the FBI was eventually able to unlock the iPhone without Apple’s help (only to find anything important on the device), Apple has since doubled down on encryption and its focus on user privacy. That brings us where we are this week, with Apple extending end-to-end encryption to many new types of iCloud data including device backups, iMessage cloud data, photos, and more.

As one might expect, the FBI is not happy with this decision. In a statement sent to Washington PostThe FBI said it was “deeply concerned” about the threat posed by end-to-end encryption. The FBI also claims that this will “impede” its ability to “protect the American people from criminal acts” such as cyberattacks, violence against children, and drug trafficking.

Late Wednesday, the FBI said it was “deeply concerned about the threat posed by end-to-end encryption and user access-only encryption.”

“This hinders our ability to protect the American people from criminal acts that range from cyberattacks and violence against children to drug trafficking, organized crime and terrorism,” the office said in an emailed statement. In this age of cybersecurity and the demand for “security by design,” the FBI and law enforcement partners need “legal access by design.”

But while Apple’s ad has been criticized by the FBI, the company is being praised by others. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has commended Apple for expanding end-to-end encryption, as well as its decision to discontinue plans for iCloud Photo’s CSAM discovery feature.

Companies should stop trying to flatten the circle by putting bugs in our pockets at the behest of governments, and focus on protecting their users and human rights. Today, Apple has taken a huge step forward on both fronts. There are a number of implementation choices that could affect the overall security of the new feature, and we’ll push Apple to make sure the encryption is as strong as possible. Finally, we’d like Apple to go a step further. Turning these privacy protection features on by default may mean that all users can protect their rights.

Take 9to5Mac

Apple must have known that it would face opposition from the FBI and other similar agencies with the announcement of expanding end-to-end encryption for iCloud. While some iCloud data has been end-to-end encrypted for years, this expands the feature to things like cloud devices and message backups for the first time.

This will greatly affect the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, as Apple will not keep the key to unlock any of this data. In the past, Apple was forced to comply with law enforcement requests in situations where data was not protected by end-to-end encryption.

I’m interested to see how complaints from government agencies affect Apple’s plans to roll out Advanced Data Protection globally. The feature is only available at launch in the US, and we expect stronger opposition from other governments.

The good news for these agencies is that the new end-to-end encryption feature is still being enabled at the moment. Users will have to manually go to the Settings app and switch to Advanced Data Protection to add end-to-end encryption to these new iCloud data categories. That will likely change at some point in the future, at which point we can expect more whining from the FBI and others.

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