- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Apple and the FBI quietly clashed over whether iPhone users should be able to save encrypted copies of their device’s data to the company’s iCloud service, a report said Tuesday.

Citing six unnamed sources familiar with the matter, Reuters reported that Apple privately told the FBI more than two years ago that it intended to let iPhone users store their device’s data on iCloud using end-to-end encryption, but that the idea was ill-received and ultimately scrapped.

Data secured using end-to-end encryption is essentially stored in a way designed to prevent unauthorized third-parties from accessing that information in a readable format, meaning neither Apple nor the FBI would be able to decipher encrypted iPhone backups saved to iCloud.

FBI officials opposed Apple’s proposal by arguing that it would affect the agency’s ability to access evidence during the course of conducting criminal investigations, Reuters reported.

Apple resumed discussions with the FBI the following year, but by then the company had aborted its plan to secure iCloud data using end-to-end encryption, the report said.



It was not clear why Apple reversed course on its encryption plan, Reuters reported.

Apple and the FBI declined and ignored requests for comment, respectively, Reuters reported. Inquiries sent by The Washington Times were not immediately answered.

Encryption has been a major issue of contention between Apple and the FBI for several years, including notably in early 2016 when the Obama administration sued the tech titan during a standoff sparked by investigators being unable at first to access data stored on a password-protected iPhone belonging to a slain suspected terrorist. The suit was eventually dropped after the FBI contracted the services of a private security company to crack into the device.

More recently, Attorney General William P. Barr publicly called on Apple last week to help the FBI unlock iPhones used by a Saudi Air Force officers who killed three Americans at a Florida naval base last month. Apple said it provided the FBI with access to the Saudi’s iCloud backups and denied that it “has not provided substantive assistance,” Reuters reported.

Apple says on its website that it currently saves iCloud data in an encrypted format, but that only certain sensitive information is stored using comparatively more secure end-to-end encryption.

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