‘iCloud backups not encrypted due to pressure from FBI’

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Apple apparantly decided, two years ago, not to fully encrypt backups of users’ devices. This was allegedly due to pressure from the FBI, who complained, according to sources, that encrypted backups would not benefit their investigations.

Normally, Apple regularly takes a fairly straightforward stance when it comes to protecting the privacy of their customers. Against this background, this report is remarkable, as the tech giant is apparently giving in to judicial authorities on such issues. The image of heroic privacy protector, that the company is trying to cultivate for itself, could become slightly unbelievable in this way.

Conflict with authorities

The contrast between the desire of technology companies to safeguard privacy and the concerns of the judiciary about the availability of information for investigations was in the news last week. VentureBeat reported, at that time, that U.S. Attorney General William Barr took the rare measure of asking Apple to decrypt two iPhones used by a Saudi U.S. Air Force official. The officer in question killed three Americans at Pensacola, a naval base in Florida.

President Trump had already accused Apple of refusing to unlock smartphones used by “killers, drug dealers and other violent criminal elements.” In the end, Apple did unlock the smartphones, in that case.

As for the recent reports, there was originally a plan to set up end-to-end encryption for backups, but that plan did not materialise in the end because the company did not want to antagonise the American authorities any further. More details about the decision against the encryption are not known.