A new report claims that over two years ago, Apple told the FBI it was planning on rolling out end-to-end encryption for iCloud backups, but dropped the plan in the face of objections raised by the feds.
The Reuters report doesn’t make clear if the federal agency’s objections were a driving factor in Apple’s decision. However, a former Apple employee told the publication that the Cupertino firm didn’t want to risk scrutiny by public officials who might claim Apple would be potentially protecting criminals and possible new anti-encryption legislation.
“Legal killed it, for reasons you can imagine,” another former Apple employee said he was told, without any specific mention of why the plan was dropped or if the FBI was a factor in the decision.
“They decided they weren’t going to poke the bear anymore,” the person said, following Apple’s legal battle with the FBI over accessing an iPhone used by the shooter in the 2016 San Bernardino mass shooting.
Two former FBI officials, who were not involved in the talks with Apple, told Reuters that the FBI’s arguments that the backups provided vital evidence in thousands of cases had prevailed.
“It’s because Apple was convinced,” said one. “Outside of that public spat over San Bernardino, Apple gets along with the federal government.”
However, a former Apple employee told the publication that it’s possible that Apple dropped the end-to-end iCloud encryption project over concerns that customers would find themselves locked out of their data more often.