Exclusive: Apple had a plan to encrypt the backup, after the FBI complained about the sources

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Apple Inc’s (AAPL.D) dropped a plan to allow iPhone users to fully encrypt their backups of their devices and the company’s iCloud service, after the FBI complained that the move would be detrimental to research, six sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: A woman uses her Apple iPhone, and a laptop in a coffee shop in lower Manhattan in New York City, united states of america, May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

The tech giant was shifting, it was about two years ago, and has not been previously reported. It shows how much Apple is willing to help U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies, despite taking a tough line be in a high-profile legal disputes with the government, and serves as an advocate for the customers ‘ information.

The long tug of war among researchers, concerns about the safety and the tech companies and the desire to ensure the privacy of the user is moved back into the public spotlight last week, when U.S. Attorney General William Barr, and took the rare step of publicly calling on Apple to release two iPhones are used by the Saudi air force, the officer who shot and killed three Americans at a Pensacola, Florida naval base during the last month.

The US President, when He piled on, accusing Apple on Twitter for you to refuse to unlock the phones is being used by “murderers, drug dealers, and other violent criminal elements.” Republican and Democratic senators, sounded a similar theme at a hearing, threatening to law and against the end-to-end encryption, with an indication of the fatal evidences of the crimes committed against children in the family.

Apple has, in fact, did turn over the shooter’s iCloud back-ups are in the Pensacola case, said he did not accept the characterization that it “has failed to provide substantive assistance.”

Behind the scenes, Apple has included the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, with more substantial help, it is not linked to a specific probe.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment on the company’s handling of the encoding is the problem, or have a conversation with the FBI. The FBI did not respond to requests for comment on any talks with Apple.

For more than two years ago, Apple told the FBI that it was going to be an end-to-end encryption to save your phone data in iCloud, according to one current and three former FBI officials, as well as a current and a former employee of Apple.

Under the plan, in the first place, it is designed to thwart hackers, Apple would no longer have a key to open it, the data is encrypted, which means that it would not be in a position to take the material over to the authorities, in a form which is readable even under the orders of the court.

In private discussions with Apple, soon after, agents from the FBI cyber crime agents and the operational technology division to object against the plan, arguing it would deny them the most effective means of obtaining proof against the iPhone, with the help of the defendants, the government, the sources said.

When Apple said privately to the FBI about his work to protect the security of your phone for the next year, the end-to-end encryption, the plan had been to drop, according to six sources. Reuters was unable to determine why Apple dropped the scheme.

Legal and killed, because of who you are, you can think of,” a former employee of Apple said that he had been ordered to do, without any specific mention of the reason as to why the plan was dropped, or if the FBI was a factor in the decision.

That person also told Reuters that the company does not want to have the risk of being attacked by a public official for the protection of the criminals, have been charged with the moving of the previously accessible data is outside the scope of its authority, or to be used as an excuse for new laws against encryption.

“They decided they weren’t going to poke the bear anymore,” the person said, referring to Apple’s court battle with the FEDS in 2016, with the access to an iPhone by one of the defendants in a massive shoot-out in San Bernardino, California, usa.

Apple’s appeal of a district court order to break into the phone to the FBI. The government has allowed the process of finding a contractor that will be able to break into your phone, in a joint action with the FBI to investigate.

The two former FBI agents, who are not in talks with Apple, told Reuters that showed that the FBI, the arguments, the back-up of important evidence in thousands of cases, has had the upper hand.

“That’s because the Apple was so confident,” said one of them. “Outside of the public row over the San Bernardino and Apple will get together with the federal government.”

However, a former employee of Apple said that it was possible to do the coding, the project was dropped for other reasons, such as to make sure that there are more and more customers could find themselves locked out of their data more often.

As soon as the decision is made, the 10 or the experts in the Apple encryption of the project – code-named Plesio and the KeyDrop was told to stop working on the effort, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters.


Apple’s decision to not proceed with an end-to-end encryption in iCloud to back-up the FBI’s job much easier.

The agency is based on the hacking software that exploits security flaws to break into a phone. However, this method requires direct access to the phone, which is usually a tip-off by the user, which is often the focus of the study.

Apple’s iCloud, on the other hand, it can be found in it. In the first half of the year, and the period of time covered by the company’s most recent semi-annual transparency report on the requests for information that it receives from the government, the US government is armed with the ordinary courts, the paper asked for, and obtained, a full machine backup or other iCloud content in 1,568 cases, of which about 6,000 email accounts.

The company said it turned over at least some of the data for up to 90% of the applications received. It appears to have more data to process in response to a secret U.S. intelligence court directives, and a topping of more than 14,000 accounts in the second half of 2018. Because of gag orders, Apple has not given any such information to 2019.

Had to continue with her plan, Apple would not have been able to turn the human-readable information to other users who have signed up for the end-to-end encryption.

In place for the protection of all of the iCloud is the end-to-end encryption, with Apple’s shift to a focus on protecting the most sensitive information of the user, such as saved passwords, and information relating to health.

But, as a back-up, and contact information, and texts from iMessage, WhatsApp and other encrypted services will continue to be available to Apple employees, and regulators.

Apple isn’t the only tech company to have it removed, access to the information.

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In October 2018, the Alphabet, Inc. ‘ s (GOOGL.O) and Google announced a similar system, Apple has dropped plans for a safe and secure backup. The maker of the Android software, which is running at about three-quarters of the mobile device, said users to be able to have a back-up copy of their data in its own cloud, without the trust and confidence of the company and the key to it.

Two of the people familiar with the project said that Google did not give any advance notice to the public, and took time to announce that if the encoding is not the thing to do.

The company will continue to offer the service, but declined to comment on the number of users of the item. The FBI did not respond to a request for comment on Google’s service of the agency, and their approach to it.

Reporting by Joseph Menn in San Francisco; Editing by Bill Rigby

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