Apple had plans to introduce end-to-end encryption for iCloud backups, but canceled it two years ago after the FBI complained (via Reuters).
Data stored in iCloud is encrypted, but in a way that Apple can still access that data upon request by law enforcement, or to help users get back into their account. Apple’s security overview page says only a limited amount of data is end-to-end encrypted:
- Home data
- Health data
- iCloud Keychain
- Payment information
- QuickType keyboard learned vocabulary
- Screen Time
- Siri data
- Wi-Fi passwords
If data is encrypted end-to-end Apple wouldn’t be able to share it with law enforcement agencies like the FBI. And the FBI complained, saying a move like that would “harm investigations.”
…the company did not want to risk being attacked by public officials for protecting criminals, sued for moving previously accessible data out of reach of government agencies or used as an excuse for new legislation against encryption.
It’s a fine line that Apple walks, and as we can see from its transparency reports, just as one example from January to June 2019 the company routinely shares up to 90% of data when requested by the U.S. government.