Google? Hah! Amazon? Laughable. Microsoft? Please. It’s Apple, right? Don’t jump on the Cupertino Privacy Train too fast because there are specific options Apple could give to customers that it does not.
FileVault vs. iCloud
Apple CEO Tim Cook gets kudos from customers because Apple stood up against the F.B.I. and other authoritarian entities on iPhone encryption. That’s right. Your iPhone is encrypted and without the proper password, it’s such a royal pain to get inside without permission that even the F.B.I. complains. Often.
Apple’s Messages app set the trend with end-to-end encryption, now followed by Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, and many other apps. We should all thank Apple for that extra layer of protection, right?
Not. So. Fast.
First, Apple is complicit with Google’s online tracking and stalker because the Safari publisher gets billions of profits each year by making Google the default search engine on Apple’s popular browser (about a billion users).
Second, Apple does not make it clear to customers and iCloud users that the company’s popular cloud services– often used for backups– are encrypted but access is given both to customer and to Apple.
What does that mean?
EFF: (Electronic Frontier Foundation):
Data on your Apple device is encrypted so that no one but you can access it, and that’s great for user privacy. But when data is backed up to iCloud, it’s encrypted so that Apple, and not just the user, can access it. That makes those backups vulnerable to government requests, third-party hacking, and disclosure by Apple employees. Apple should let users protect themselves and choose truly encrypted iCloud backups.
I understand the sentiment and applaud the effort, so why is Apple encrypting iCloud backups where both Apple and the customer has access?
Is it not better to get rid of third party access to encrypted iCloud backups? Not according to Ahaie Tengwar Angulócello:
Apple is protecting users from catastrophic data loss by *not* encrypting cloud backups. If it offered encrypted backups, then there would be massive wailing and gnashing of teeth from millions of users who went with the encrypted option and then forgot their password, locking themselves out of ever seeing the data (precious family photos, etc) that was on their lost/broken phone ever again.
It would seem that Apple’s approach is pragmatic; offering a strong level of protection and privacy, but with a loophole in case users forget their password and cannot retrieve password protected– and encrypted– data in iCloud.
Why not a toggle switch? Leave it Off for the average user, much the same way FileVault works on macOS. It’s off by default, but once turned on, the onus is on the customer, not Apple.
WARNING: You will need your login password or a recovery key to access your data. A recovery key is automatically generated as part of this setup. If you forget both your password and recovery key, the data will be lost.
iCloud needs the same kind of encryption option, but that is a level of privacy Apple does not want customers to have.