While Apple has steadfastly refused to help the FBI unlock two iPhones of Florida gunman Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, the company has admitted that it handed over a large amount of data from the suspect, including a backup of his iCloud, to the FBI,media reported. This is possible because while iCloud backups are encrypted, Apple holds the master key.
In response, a Reuters report earlier this week said Apple had planned to launch an end-to-end encrypted iCloud backup years ago, but chose to give up under intense pressure from the FBI. The FBI told Apple that full encryption of iCloud backups would be a serious “damage investigation,” the report said.
Some, however, began to question the veracity of the original report. John Gruber, for example, is keen to point out that Apple has no reason to stop its comprehensive encryption program for iCloud backups in the first place. Encrypting iCloud backups is perfectly legal. There is also no evidence that the FBI reached out to Apple and warned them not to implement its planned encryption scheme. Even if this does occur during security-related communications, Apple is under no obligation to comply.
All in all, it’s hard to figure out exactly what makes an impact. While Apple’s decision to unencrypt end-to-end iCloud may have been made by the FBI, it is equally reasonable that Apple’s decision is based on protecting users who really need to access data from iCloud backup.
Tim Cook said so in a 2018 interview, saying Apple may no longer have the iCloud master key in the future.