Apple allegedly had plans to store iPhones' backups in encrypted form in iCloud, but decided to do so after an objection from the FBI, reports Reuters on Tuesday based on six anonymous sources. Encryption would make it impossible for both Apple and the investigation services to view the contents of iPhone users' backups.
The plan to encrypt the backups in iCloud should make it harder for hackers to access the content that iPhone users store in their iCloud. At the same time, Apple would also lose the possibility of transferring suspect information to investigative services.
The FBI allegedly objected after Apple shared the plan with the federal police service more than two years ago. The following year Apple would have dropped the plan. Reuters relies on a current and three former employees of the FBI and a current and a former employee of Apple.
It is unclear whether and to what extent pressure from the FBI has played a role. The plan may also have been discontinued for other reasons, for example because of concerns that iPhone users may more often be unable to gain permanent access to their data.
According to a former Apple employee, Apple did not want to be accused of protecting criminals or risk being charged with keeping the information out of government agencies. In addition, the encryption plan could potentially lead to new legislation against encryption.
Apple is again in the clinch with the FBI after four years
Apple is currently again in conflict with the FBI, after the tech company refused four years ago to build a backdoor in its software that would allow the FBI to access a terrorist's iPhone. Eventually, the FBI managed to unlock the smartphone without help from Apple.
In January, Apple again refused a similar request. It concerns two iPhones from a terrorist who killed three people in December at an airbase in the US state of Florida. Apple refuses to provide the software with a back door, because that puts the security of all iPhone users at stake.
However, the company has said that it has handed over all relevant information from iCloud accounts to the FBI. In the first six months of 2019, the company shared a total of around six thousand accounts with iPhones or other iCloud data backups with the police.