Apple announced yesterday that end-to-end encryption applies to even more sensitive types of iCloud data, including device backups, contacts, messages, photos, and more, responding to long-standing user demand and privacy groups that have rallied around the company. to take an important step in protecting user privacy.
iCloud end-to-end encryption, or what Apple calls “advanced data protection”, encrypts user data stored in iCloud, meaning that only a trusted device can decrypt and read the data. iCloud data from accounts with Advanced Data Protection can only be read by a trusted device, not by Apple, law enforcement, or government entities.
Following his announcements, the EFF or Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group that has long called on Apple to enable end-to-end encryption and take more steps to protect user privacy, issued a statement applauding the news. functionality and Apple’s renewed commitment to privacy.
We commend 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 to maintain online privacy and security. That’s why we included the demand that Apple allow users to encrypt iCloud backups in the Fix It Already campaign we launched in 2019.
Meredith Whittaker, CEO of popular encrypted messaging app Signal, said Apple’s decision to offer end-to-end encryption “is terrific”. “There’s been enough pressure and enough narrative work for them to see the side of the story forming. It’s really amazing,” Whittaker said. The Washington Post.
The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, or STOP, called advanced data protection “essential and overdue.” Despite the announcement, the group is “disappointed” that end-to-end encryption requires users to register and is not enabled by default. Fox Cahn, the group’s chief executive, said, “It’s good to see Apple’s privacy protections catching up in business, but having those protections enabled will leave most users vulnerable.”
For years, Apple has touted its privacy record while leaving its users vulnerable, including to police surveillance. Much of the data stored by users on iCloud is just a court order to become a police tool. With these changes, Apple will follow privacy best practices that other companies have followed for years. But it’s disappointing that users have to sign up for many of these new protections, leaving the vast majority at risk.
Fight for the Future, another privacy-focused advocacy group, said on Twitter that Apple’s announcement of end-to-end encryption is making the company’s privacy-focused marketing a reality. “Apple’s reputation as a pro-privacy technology company has long been at odds with the reality that iCloud backups are not secured with end-to-end encryption. This news means that messages, documents, and data People’s personal belongings will be protected from law enforcement, hackers and Apple itself.” The group is Call now on Apple to implement RCS messaging in the iPhone, a move the group says is a “non-negotiable next step.”
While privacy groups and apps applaud Apple for expanding end-to-end encryption in iCloud, governments have reacted differently. In a statement to The Washington Post, the FBI, the world’s largest intelligence agency, said it was “deeply concerned about the threat posed by end-to-end encryption and restricted user access.” The bureau said Apple’s end-to-end encryption and advanced data protection complicate their work and they demand “lawful access by design.”
“This impedes our ability to protect the American people from criminal acts ranging from cyberattacks and child abuse to drug trafficking, organized crime and terrorism,” the office said in an emailed statement. . “In this era of cybersecurity and ‘security by design’ requirements, the FBI and law enforcement partners need ‘lawful access by design’.”
Former FBI official Sasha O’Connell also weighed in, telling The New York Times “It’s great to see companies prioritizing security, but we have to keep in mind that there are trade-offs, and one that often goes unaddressed is the impact it’s about reducing law enforcement’s access to digital evidence.”
In January 2020, Reuters reported that Apple dropped plans to encrypt user data in iCloud at the request of the FBI, which feared such a move would hamper 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 heard that rumour, but I don’t know where it came from.”
In that same interview, Federighi said that Apple “deeply appreciates the work of law enforcement and supports the work of law enforcement. We consider that we really have the same mission at heart which is to ensure the peoples’ security”. Apple says Advanced Data Protection will be available to all US users by the end of this year, with global launch plans in early 2023.
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