Apple dropped plans to offer end-to-end encrypted cloud back-ups to its global customer base after the FBI complained, a new report has claimed.
Citing six sources “familiar with the matter,” Reuters claimed that Apple changed its mind over the plans for iCloud two years ago after the Feds argued in private it would seriously hinder investigations.
The revelations put a new spin on the often combative relationship between the law enforcement agency and one of the world’s biggest tech companies.
The two famously clashed in 2016 when Apple refused to engineer backdoors in its products that would enable officers to unlock the phone of a gunman responsible for a mass shooting in San Bernardino.
Since then, both FBI boss Christopher Wray, attorney general William Barr and most recently Donald Trump have taken Apple and the wider tech community to task for failing to budge on end-to-end encryption.
Silicon Valley argues that it’s impossible to provide law enforcers with access to encrypted data in a way which wouldn’t undermine security for hundreds of millions of law-abiding customers around the world.
They are backed by world-leading encryption experts, while on the other side, lawmakers and enforcers have offered no solutions of their own to the problem.
Apple’s decision not to encrypt iCloud back-ups means it can provide officers with access to target’s accounts. According to the report, full device backups and other iCloud content was handed over to the US authorities in 1568 cases in the first half of 2019, covering around 6000 accounts.
Apple is also said to have handed the Feds the iCloud backups of the Pensacola shooter, whose case sparked another round of calls for encryption backdoors from Trump and others.
It’s not 100% clear if Apple dropped its encryption plan because of the FBI complaint, or if it was down to more mundane usability issues. Android users are said to be able to back-up to the cloud without Google accessing their accounts.