Amazon removed disk encryption from its Fire Tablet product line last fall, an issue Reuters brought to light on Thursday. Amazon said it removed the feature because "It was a feature few customers were actually using," but privacy experts aren't pleased with the move.
"Removing device encryption due to lack of customer use is an incredibly poor excuse for weakening the security of those customers that did use the feature," Jeremy Gillula, staff technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Reuters.
He added, "Given that the information stored on a tablet can be just as sensitive as that stored on a phone or on a computer, Amazon should instead be pushing to make device encryption the default—not removing it."
Disk encryption is a bit of a misnomer in this instance because tablets—including Amazon's Fire Tablet—don't have disks, they have SSDs. That said, it still means that data stored on the SSD is encrypted and requires a password to access. It's one step short of whole device, end-user encryption, but does keep data safer than it is without it.
It's possible no one would have noticed this decision were it not for Apple's fight over a government order to create tools that bypass the security of iOS for the sake of unlocking a terrorist's work iPhone. As it is, the move was made in the fall and is just being reported in March.
Amazon is one of several companies supporting Apple in its fight with the FBI, with the company signing on to an Amicus brief filed on Apple's behalf. That brief argued that the FBI overstepped its authority under the All Writs Act, and it was cosigned by Cisco, Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, Nest (owned by Google), Pinterest (owned by Yahoo), Slack, Snapchat, Whatsapp (owned by Facebook), and Yahoo.
It will be interesting to see if Amazon feels pressured to re-add support for disk encryption in light of these developments, or if the company's customers continue to not want it.