Apple reportedly abandoned plans to let iPhone users to encrypt backups of their phones, preventing even the company from gaining access to user information, after the FBI pressured the company to nix the move.
The tech company told the FBI two years ago that it planned to offer end-to-end encryption, Reuters reported Tuesday, citing anonymous FBI officials as well as anonymous sources inside Apple. The plan was dropped after Apple spoke privately to the FBI about its work, the sources said.
“Legal killed it, for reasons you can imagine,” a former Apple employee said he was told, Reuters reported. The company wanted to avoid being harangued by public officials for protecting criminals, Reuters reported, citing the employee.
“They decided they weren’t going to poke the bear anymore,” the person said, referring to the company’s decision to defy a court order to help law enforcement search the device of a gunman who shot and killed 14 people in a terrorism attack in California in 2015.
Reuters’ report comes days after Apple reportedly gave investigators materials from Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani’s iCloud account.
Alshamrani is a Saudi who killed three sailors during a Dec. 6, 2019, shooting in Pensacola, Florida. The tech company is refusing to assist the Justice Department in unlocking the phones, The New York Times reported on Jan. 13.
Officials with the Department of Justice say they need access to Alshamrani’s phones to see messages from encrypted apps, noting also that such intelligence might help them determine if Alshamrani was planning attacks with other people.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr and President Donald Trump criticized the company for what they believe is Apple’s lack of cooperation.
“We are helping Apple all of the time on TRADE and so many other issues, and yet they refuse to unlock phones used by killers, drug dealers, and other violent criminal elements,” Trump said in a Jan. 14 tweet.
Apple is etching out a role as one of the few tech giants devoted to improving privacy, even as lawmakers worry the company is using that position to gain market supremacy.
The company is rigging the system, app makers argue. They were once able to ask customers for permission before tracking their whereabouts even when they were not using the application — that all changed after Apple’s newest update denied app makers such options.
Government officials are meanwhile looking at Silicon Valley companies in a much more critical light than they have in past years. Google, Facebook, Amazon and others are fending off hard charging lawmakers and officials looking to tag the companies with potential antitrust investigations.
Neither Apple nor the FBI responded to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.
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