Apple Inc. announced Wednesday that it will offer full encryption for data in its cloud storage system worldwide, which not surprisingly has been met with consternation from some and joy from others.
The move means that all content, chats, photos and videos, will have end-to-end encryption under Apple’s Advanced Data Protection feature. For the average consumer, this is a win, and for the average privacy advocate, it’s a victory in an ongoing fight with the authorities.
“We applaud Apple for listening to experts, child advocates, and users who want to protect their most sensitive data,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote today. “Encryption is one of the most important tools we have for maintaining privacy and security online.” The foundation was equally pleased that Apple also stated that it had finally decided not to implement its CSAM photo-scanning child protection technology.
The authorities, on the other hand, have denounced the move, especially the FBI, which has a history of battling with Apple over trying to get its hands on user data. Today the FBI told The Washington Post that it was “deeply concerned” over the matter.
“This hinders our ability to protect the American people from criminal acts ranging from cyber-attacks and violence against children to drug trafficking, organized crime, and terrorism,” the bureau said. “In this age of cybersecurity and demands for ‘security by design,’ the FBI and law enforcement partners need ‘lawful access by design.’”
Apple will also likely run into problems concerning the U.K. government and its online safety bill. The bill gives the U.K. government broad powers to force companies to ensure content on their platforms aligns with what it calls internet safety. Many privacy advocates have condemned the bill as a new kind of censorship.
With Apple’s end-to-end encryption, even it will not be able to access the data in iCloud, which should make it all but impossible for the U.K. to snoop on Apple’s users. “We support strong encryption, but it cannot come at the expense of protecting the public,” a U.K. government spokesperson told The Guardian today. “End-to-end encryption cannot be allowed to hamper efforts to catch perpetrators of the most serious crimes.” It is almost certain that Apple and the U.K. will be butting heads very soon.