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Apple abandoned plans to fully encrypt iCloud following FBI objections, according to Reuters

Encryption of Apple products and the FBI are still going around. According to Reuters, Apple had plans to put end-to-end encryption on all content in the iCloud cloud just over two years ago. Coinciding with some FBI objections to this, the company abandoned the idea a year later. However, the publication has not been able to confirm the exact reason for the cancellation of these plans, although it speculates that they were by the government agency.

An end-to-end encryption for iCloud that would have prevented access to authorities

In other words, the content stored in iCloud is protected by Apple’s encryption . The company has a “key” that allows you to access it, but only in case the authorities request it through the corresponding legal channels. Under this project, the encryption would have been fully protected ( end-to-end ) and it would not have been possible to deliver readable data to the authorities because Apple would not have the keys to do so.

Apple abandoned plans to fully encrypt iCloud following FBI objections, according to Reuters
Apple abandoned plans to fully encrypt iCloud following FBI objections, according to Reuters

Apparently, and according to several Reuters sources, Apple announced these plans to the FBI. Shortly afterwards, agents from the cyber-crime unit objected to the company’s plans. One year later, sources claim that when Apple met with the FBI the encryption plan had been abandoned. However, Reuters has not been able to determine exactly that the company had closed the project because of FBI objections.

Encrypted data and data with end-to-end encryption in iCloud

When we store our backups in iCloud, all data is encrypted s. However, as Apple explains in this support document, there is a different treatment depending on the type of data:

  • For sensitive data such as Health, Home, Keychain or QuickType, Apple employs end-to-end encryption. This type of encryption fully protects the data so that no one, not even Apple, can access it.
  • For the rest of the data, they are also encrypted. With the important difference that Apple does have the necessary key to decipher them, something only foreseen when requested by the authorities via a court order.

This is the reason, for example, that in the case of the San Bernardino bombing Apple could hand over the backups made in iCloud to the FBI. The problem that arose then is that the last copy made was 6 weeks old , giving too much leeway for relevant data to be unbacked up in the cloud. Hence the researchers wanted to get into the device at all costs.

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As to why Apple made that decision, Reuters sources disagree. One of them states that Apple did not want to be accused of protecting criminals, sued for withdrawing access to data previously accessible under court order or used as an excuse to legislate against encryption . Another former Apple employee indicated that the company feared an increase in users being “locked out” of their devices and unable to recover their data.

Whatever the reason, once it was taken, the team of about 10 people dedicated to the project received orders to abandon the efforts .

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