Apple dumped plan to fully lockup iCloud backups at FBI's request

Currently, iPhone data is encrypted on the phone and iCloud. While Apple does not have keys for physical devices, it does have them for backups in the cloud. It claims this is for customer convenience. If a user forgets their password, Apple can still recover their data for them.

“Our users have a key, and we have one,” Tim Cook told German outlet Spiegel in an interview in 2018. “We do this because some users lose or forget their key and then expect help from us to get their data back.”

"Apple was convinced. Outside of that public spat over San Bernardino, Apple gets along with the federal government."

The Verge noted in 2016, Apple had plans to increase iCloud security so that neither it nor law enforcement could gain access to backed up data, just as it is on the iPhone. This was at the height if its public squabble over opening San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook’s iPhone. It would have effectively closed a loophole on the agency and tied Apple’s hands to do anything about it. However, Cupertino never followed through with the idea.

Now, Reuters reports that it was at the FBI’s urging that the company left the loophole open. A former agent told Reuters that the agency convinced Apple not to lockout iCloud as it would severely harm its investigations.

“It’s because Apple was convinced,” said the agent. “Outside of that public spat over San Bernardino, Apple gets along with the federal government.”

A former employee claimed that the plan had legal ramifications that Apple did not want to face, such as not complying with a court order. Plus, it was already mixed up in a legal battle with the agency over it wanting a backdoor into phones.

“Legal killed it, for reasons you can imagine,” said the insider. “They decided they weren’t going to poke the bear anymore,” the source added, indicating that Apple did not want to provoke the FBI any more than it already had.

Coupled with the customer-convenience reasoning that Cook later mentioned, the motivation for end-to-end encryption on iCloud backups faded. Interestingly, this news comes to light just as Apple enters another conflict, with government officials claiming the company is not being cooperative.

"Legal killed it. They decided they weren’t going to poke the bear anymore."

On the contrary, Apple receives thousands of legal requests from law enforcement for access to iCloud data every year. It claims to comply with about 90 percent of the inquiries and posts them in a transparency report.

What seems to be at issue here is the FBI’s desire to have a backdoor into physical devices. Sometimes users do not back up their iPhones frequently enough or even at all, making iCloud data less useful in an investigation. Instead of only being able to see what suspects did last week or a month ago, law enforcement would like to see what they were doing yesterday.

It’s not that Apple is not supplying data to the FBI; it’s that the information is not good enough.

Editorial credit: Sharaf Maksumov via Shutterstock

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ckm88

TS Maniac
But isn't this given that the iPhone user subscribes to iCloud storage? Default is 5GB and after that, your phone will continuously fail to backup.
 

Squid Surprise

TS Evangelist
But isn't this given that the iPhone user subscribes to iCloud storage? Default is 5GB and after that, your phone will continuously fail to backup.
It's amazing how many people purchase it though... plus lots of people have less than 5GB on their phones and their data gets backed up automatically - generally without their knowledge, as most people aren't very tech savvy...
 
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Evernessince

地獄らしい人間動物園
It's amazing how many people purchase it though... plus lots of people have less than 5GB on their phones and their data gets backed up automatically - generally without their knowledge, as most people aren't very tech savvy...
Yep. This is essentially giving them access to everything on your phone from browsing history to photos and call records. All that information, like any android phone, is stored on the cloud.

This sets a bad precedent going forward. If not even Apple is willing to try this, the feds might as well have unfettered access to all your data on the internet. This is why I don't sign up for a Firefox account to sync data between devices and it's also why I only use local backups. It's not personal data if they are selling it to make a buck and allow everyone and their mother to access it.
 

PEnnn

TS Maniac
So, any crook with 1/2 a brain will now just disable ICloud back on their phones and leave the FBI, CIA, NSA and whoever holding the bag.....!
 

Chadddd

TS Rookie
Does this mean Apple won't give access to FBI if they want to get into a criminals phone that contains stolen CC numbers or worse...concerning pictures...