FBI calls Apple’s improved iCloud encryption ‘extremely concerning’ as privacy groups see it as a victory for users

Apple announced yesterday that end-to-end encryption is coming for more sensitive types of iCloud data, including device backups, messages, photos, and more, to meet longstanding demand from both users and privacy groups who have rallied the company to take a significant step forward in User privacy.


‌iCloud‌ end-to-end encryption, or what Apple calls “Advanced Data Protection,” encrypts users’ data stored in ‌iCloud‌, which means that only a trusted device can decrypt and read the data. iCloud data in accounts with Advanced Data Protection can only be read by a trusted device, not by Apple, law enforcement, or government agencies.

Following its announcements, the EFF, or Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group that has called on Apple to enable end-to-end encryption and take more steps to protect user privacy, issued a statement praising the new feature and Apple’s renewed commitment to privacy.

We applaud Apple for listening to experts, child advocates, and users who want to protect their most sensitive data. Encryption is one of the most important tools we have for maintaining privacy and security online. That’s why we included Apple’s demand to allow users to encrypt iCloud backups in our Fix It campaign already in 2019.

Meredith Whitaker, CEO of popular encrypted messaging app Signal, said Apple’s decision to introduce end-to-end encryption is “remarkable”. “There’s been enough pressure and enough narrative work that they see that aspect of history take shape. It’s really incredible,” said Whitaker. Washington Post.

The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, or STOP, calls Advanced Data Protection “necessary and overdue.” Despite the announcement, the group is disappointed that end-to-end encryption will require users to opt-in and not be enabled by default. Fox Cahn, the group’s executive director, said, “It’s good to see Apple’s privacy protections catch up in sales, but making those protections optional would leave most users vulnerable.”

For years, Apple has promoted its privacy history while leaving its users vulnerable, particularly to police surveillance. Much of the data users store on iCloud is just a court order away from becoming a police tool. With these changes, Apple will keep up with the privacy best practices that other companies have followed for years. But it’s disappointing that users have to opt-in to so many of these new protections, leaving the vast majority at risk.

Another privacy-focused advocacy group said: Fight for the Future on Twitter Apple’s announcement of end-to-end encryption makes the company’s marketing focus on privacy a reality. “Apple’s reputation as a pro-privacy technology company has long been at odds with the fact that iCloud backups‌ are not secured with end-to-end encryption. This news means that people’s personal messages, documents, and data will be safe from law enforcement, hackers, and Apple itself.” the group Call now on Apple to implement RCS messaging in the iPhone, a move the group says is a “non-negotiable next step”.

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While privacy and app groups praise Apple for expanding end-to-end encryption in iCloud‌, governments have reacted differently. In a statement to Washington PostThe FBI, the world’s largest intelligence agency, said it was “deeply concerned about the threat posed by end-to-end encryption and user-only access encryption.” The bureau said that end-to-end encryption and Apple’s advanced data protection make it difficult for them to do their jobs and require “lawful access by design.”

“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 “safety by design,” the FBI and law enforcement partners need “legal access by design.”

In her opinion, former FBI official Sasha O’Connell also said New York times “It’s great to see companies prioritize security, but we have to keep in mind that there are trade-offs, and one that is often not considered is the impact it has on reducing law enforcement’s access to digital evidence.”

In January 2020, Reuters It reported that Apple dropped plans to encrypt user data in iCloud‌ at the request of the FBI, which was concerned that such a move would hinder investigations and its intelligence efforts. In an interview yesterday with The Wall Street JournalJoanna Stern, Apple’s vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, called the report inaccurate. “I’ve heard this rumor, but I don’t know where it came from.”

In the same interview, Federighi said that Apple “highly values ​​the work of law enforcement and supports the work of law enforcement. We see that we have the same mission at heart to keep people safe.” Apple says Advanced Data Protection will be available to all US users by the end of this year, with plans to launch it globally in early 2023.

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