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FBI pressure leaves iCloud, iPhone users vulnerable to unencrypted back door

Apple touts iPhone privacy as a key selling point on its website. (Source: Apple)
Apple touts iPhone privacy as a key selling point on its website. (Source: Apple)
Apple has found itself in another privacy related controversy, this time over a decision apparently made two years ago, but only coming to light now. According to Reuters, Apple abandoned plans to fully encrypt iPhone (and iPad) back ups in iCloud following pressure from the FBI. The move raises serious privacy concerns for a company that touts itself as a user privacy leader.
Sanjiv Sathiah,

Apple is once again mired in another privacy related scandal. According to Reuters, Apple caved in to the FBI on its plans to encrypt iCloud back-ups of its users iPhone (and iPad) data. The story has come to light following recent pressure from US President Donald Trump calling on Apple to unlock the iPhones of “killers, drug dealers and other violent criminal elements.”

Reuters claims that it has received information from six different sources that Apple had plans two years ago to encrypt iPhone data stored in iCloud that would have removed the ‘key’ to user data. This would have helped to deliver the levels of strict privacy that Apple advertises as a major point of differentiation from its competitors. Instead, those plans were scuppered leaving Apple in a position to support law enforcement by handing over unencrypted back ups, which it has admitted to doing.

According to Reuters, two former FBI officials revealed that such access to user iPhone data has provided it with ‘vital evidence’ used in ‘thousands’ of cases that it has won in court. There several aspects of Apple’s iPhone data that are encrypted, but many users would also assume that their iCloud back up is also encrypted. The only way to ensure that an iCloud back up is fully encrypted is to store back iPhone and iPad back ups locally to a Mac or PC.

Apple's statement on privacy. (Source: Apple)
Apple's statement on privacy. (Source: Apple)
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Sanjiv Sathiah
Sanjiv Sathiah - Senior Tech Writer - 1360 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2017
I have been writing about consumer technology over the past ten years, previously with the former MacNN and Electronista, and now Notebookcheck since 2017. My first computer was an Apple ][c and this sparked a passion for Apple, but also technology in general. In the past decade, I’ve become increasingly platform agnostic and love to get my hands on and explore as much technology as I can get my hand on. Whether it is Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Nintendo, Xbox, or PlayStation, each has plenty to offer and has given me great joy exploring them all. I was drawn to writing about tech because I love learning about the latest devices and also sharing whatever insights my experience can bring to the site and its readership.
contact me via: @t3mporarybl1p
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2020 01 > FBI pressure leaves iCloud, iPhone users vulnerable to unencrypted back door
Sanjiv Sathiah, 2020-01-22 (Update: 2020-01-22)