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Technology 27 January 2020

The Week in Internet News: Apple Backs Away from Encryption Plan

Grant Gross
By Grant GrossTechnology Reporter

Under pressure: Apple has scrapped plans to allow iPhone users to fully encrypt backups of their devices in iCloud after the U.S. FBI complained it would hinder investigations, Reuters reports. About two years ago, Apple told the FBI that it planned to offer users end-to-end encryption when storing their phone data on iCloud, but its plans seem to have changed. Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General William Barr and President Donald Trump have continued their pressure for tech vendors to build backdoors in encrypted devices, Politico says.

One high-profile phone: Two United Nations rights experts have accused Saudi Arabia of hacking the phone owned by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com and owner of the Washington Post, the New York Times says. The hack appears to be an attempt to influence the Post’s coverage of the kingdom, the U.N. people say. The hack of Bezos’ phone appears to have bypassed encryption through spyware, adds a Fortune story.

If it’s good for smartphones: Swiss cryptography firm Teserakt has introduced E4, “a sort of cryptographic implant that Internet of Things manufacturers can integrate into their servers,” Wired reports. The open source tool aims to be a comprehensive encryption solution for IoT.

Bring on the meat cleaver: Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google parent company Alphabet, has called for a moratorium on facial recognition technology in agreement with a European Union request, Reuters reports. Pichai raised concerns about potential misuses, but Microsoft President Brad Smith said a temporary ban is like using a “meat cleaver” when a scalpel is needed.

Street-level surveillance: In other surveillance news, the city of San Diego has installed video cameras in nearly 3,000 street lights, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The cameras don’t have facial recognition or license plate reading technology, but the local police department has used the video in 46 investigations since mid-August.

Take these six actions to protect encryption and protect yourself.

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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