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Amazon pledges to bring device encryption back to Fire OS this spring

Amazon pledges to bring device encryption back to Fire OS this spring


Company reverses course after widespread criticism

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Amazon has quickly reversed course after it found itself in a PR firestorm earlier this week for quietly disabling encryption on its Fire OS 5 software. The move came at a particularly inopportune time: a standoff between Apple and the FBI over a suspected terrorist's iPhone has prompted a high-profile, nationwide conversation about device security.

In a statement provided to The Verge on Friday, a representative provided no explanation for the decision, saying merely: "We will return the option for full disk encryption with a Fire OS update coming this spring." Fire OS is the Android-based operating system that powers the company's Fire tablets as well as the Fire TV and the failed Fire Phone.

It took just two days and a PR firestorm for the company to reverse course

A noticed published earlier this week indicated that the latest update to Fire OS 5 removed the option to encrypt data on the company's tablets. Encryption on Fire tablets wasn't on by default, like it is on iPhones, but it still provides a valuable security measure. Encrypted data largely prevents thieves or hackers from accessing data stored locally on the device, since it is scrambled without the encryption key.

Removing the feature marked an odd regression in security practices, though Amazon noted that it "found customers weren’t using" the "enterprise feature." The company also said that it made the decision to remove the feature last fall, before the current case between Apple and the FBI. Nevertheless, the decision looked especially poor in light of Amazon's support of Apple's position to not build security backdoors into consumer devices. Amazon filed a joint amicus brief in Apple's favor on Thursday.