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Dark side to common iPhone setting

Lucy Dean
Pictured: Woman uses Apple iPhone. Image: Getty
Do you have iCloud backups turned on? Image: Getty

Apple iPhone users have been told their privacy could be compromised after it pulled the plug on plans to enable end-to-end encryption.

Apple in 2017 scuppered plans to allow users to fully encrypt their backups on its iCloud service after the US FBI said it would get in the way of criminal investigations, Reuters reported.

The tech giant had been secretly working on the feature for years when it pulled the plug, three former FBI officials, one current and one former Apple employee confirmed.

Under end-to-end encryption, Apple and law enforcement agencies would be unable to access data stored in the iCloud without the user’s password.

While the iCloud’s privacy loophole has long been recognised, Apple’s decision to step back on plans to boost customer privacy is notable given the Silicon Valley company’s strong words on privacy.

At the 2019 CES tech trade show, Apple made a huge banner ad with the words “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone”.

Security versus privacy: Apple’s ethical quandary

Apple has long struggled to find the sweet spot between protecting customers’ privacy and supporting international safety and security.

The company has described privacy as a core value, and aims to demonstrate this by preventing advertisers from tracking you from site to site and anonymising and encrypting data that remains on your phone.

But it has also come up against the US government which has repeatedly asked for Apple to provide ‘back-door’ options that would allow agencies like the FBI to access semi-encrypted information.

Apple has historically refused to do so, citing the poor precedent that would set. However, it has allowed access in some instances.

In the last seven years, the tech giant has received 127,000 requests for data from US law enforcement, with the US Attorney General William Barr last week making headlines after he called on Apple to unlock two phones.

The phones had been used by a Saudi Air Force officer who killed three Americans in Pensacola, Florida in December.

President Donald Trump echoed the calls, accusing Apple of refusing to unlock devices used by “killers, drug dealers and other violent criminal elements”.

The company last year was also forced to apologise for listening to users’ conversations to help its voice assistant more accurately respond to commands.

“Apple is committed to putting the customer at the center of everything we do, which includes protecting their privacy,” the company said in a post.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has also described privacy as a “fundamental human right”.

How do I turn off iCloud backups?

Users can turn off iCloud backups by heading to settings and then hitting their name before heading to the iCloud tab where the backup option can be slid on or off.

If you want to backup your phone without using iCloud you can connect your phone to a Mac or PC via a USB cable and back your contents up onto that device instead.

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