Encryption is a good thing, right? Well, it depends. If you’re the government trying to hack into a smartphone, encryption is a hindrance, a hoop to jump through, a dangerous technology that prevents law enforcement agencies from protecting citizens. Sounds like political noise to me.
If you’re a smartphone, tablet, and PC maker, then having encryption is good for your customers and helps to prevent loss of private information and communications data. What’s not to like? Without encryption we would not have secure online transactions. Well, guess what a little noise can do to a tech maker which thinks gadget customers don’t need and don’t want encryption?
From A To Z
In some respects the giant online retailer Amazon is one of Apple’s most fierce competitors, a company run by a CEO who fancies himself as the digital retail equivalent of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, a visionary who touts the company’s technology prowess but can’t figure out how to make any money selling online. How unlike Steve Jobs, no?
Here’s the latest. While Apple fights for your rights in courts throughout the country, a fight to protect your privacy and security with encryption so tough the government wants to have a backdoor, good old Amazon decided their tablet devices don’t really need to have encryption and removed it in Fire OS 5 (which is the Amazon equivalent of Android Lollipop, which should tell you how original Amazon really is when it comes to technology devices).
Why no encryption in Amazon’s Fire OS 5? The company said encryption is an enterprise feature and customers just were not using it. Of course, if you want to use your Amazon tablet to buy something on Amazon, the secure connection between the online store and the tablet uses encryption. You just can’t use encryption to secure whatever you store on your Amazon tablet.
No encryption means if your Amazon tablet is lost or stolen then whatever incriminating evidence or private information that is stored on the tablet is available for anyone to find, criminal or cop.
What did Amazon tablet customers say about that? They were not happy. not happy campers and these Amazon customers began raising their voices in protest (here’s a sample) and this time a customer rebellion worked. Amazon relented and now plans to update tablets with encryption. Some day. Soon.
Why would Amazon drop encryption in their slow selling tablets?*
The reasons are many and varied but likely it boiled down to two major issues. 1) Amazon does not care as much about customer security and privacy as they want the public to believe. 2) The recent update to Android Lollipop with full on encryption is a battery hog. 3) Most Amazon customers don’t really care because they really don’t use their Amazon tablets for anything more than movies and browsing.
That approach to privacy and security stands in sharp contrast to Apple’s hundreds of millions of iPad users (Amazon has never revealed how many Amazon tablets or Kindle tablets have been sold, but the number is in the ‘millions‘) where customers use their devices more than all other tablets combined, despite having a small total marketshare.
The iPhone has encryption on by default. On the Mac, File Vault encryption is an option which makes the Mac’s files more private and more secure, but it’s not on by default. Maybe it should be.
Now, as to the noise differential, it’s clear. Apple makes noise and bangs the drum for customer privacy and security. Amazon makes noise by doing the wrong thing. Maybe one day the shareholders will recognize that.
*How do I know Amazon’s tablets are slow sellers? I don’t have any numbers. Amazon won’t disclose any tablet sales numbers, either, so slow selling is as accurate as hot selling.