Citing sources, a Reuters report claims that Apple decided against iPhone users fully encrypting their iCloud backup due to pressure from the FBI. The company had seemingly wanted to offer end-to-end encryption for iCloud backups two years ago.
However, due to concerns raised by the FBI and its operational technology division, Apple ended up dropping the plan. The law enforcement agency argued that encrypting the data would deny it of gaining important evidence against suspects using iPhones. This led Apple to drop the idea of encrypting iCloud backups the following year.
“Legal killed it, for reasons you can imagine,” another former Apple employee said he was told, without any specific mention of why the plan was dropped or if the FBI was a factor in the decision.
Apple was not interested in being subjected to various lawsuits and law enforcement agencies coming behind it for helping terrorists or giving the government an excuse for new legislation against encryption. One FBI official told Reuters that Apple decided against encrypting iCloud backups because it was “convinced” that the move would be detrimental and rob the FBI of important data in many cases. The official also said that barring its spat over the San Bernardino case, Apple and the federal government get along with each other.
On the flip side, an Apple employee told that the feature could have been dropped for other reasons, including concerns that many users would end up losing their important data quite frequently.
Apple currently offers iCloud backups without end-to-end encryption. This allows it to hand over all data stored in iCloud backups to the law enforcement agency when required. The company only encrypts all data stored on an iPhone making access difficult for the FBI. Apple is back under the spotlight for its encryption practices after the FBI asked it to unlock two iPhones of a Florida shooter. While the company turned over gigabytes of iCloud data to the law enforcement agency, it did not unlock the iPhones which even led President Trump to criticize the company.