Amazon Quickly Backpedals, Agrees To Restore Fire Tablet Encryption

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It’s been an interesting few days for Amazon. The company came under fire late this week when it was revealed that Fire OS 5 removed device encryption from Fire tablets. Given the brouhaha surrounding encryption these days, Amazon’s decision was rather curious. The company confirmed the move in a statement yesterday, writing, “We removed some enterprise features that we found customers weren’t using.”

Given the overwhelmingly negative reaction to disabling device encryption on its Fire tablets, it should come as no surprise that Amazon has quickly changed its tune. Without going into further detail, the company simply issues the following statement:

We will return the option for full disk encryption with a Fire OS update coming this spring.

This is definitely a plus for the few customers (according to Amazon) that were using device encryption on their devices. After all, it should be a trivial matter to just leave the option there for customers. If they want device encryption, they can enable it on their own. If they don’t want encryption, they never have to enable it. But to remove the feature altogether seemed like a misguided move, which Amazon has rightfully corrected.

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Amazon’s quick decision to reverse course was likely compounded by the fact that the company had just appeared on an amicus brief expressing full support for Apple in its fight against the FBI. As you all are well aware, that case involves Apple’s unwillingness to bypass iPhone encryption and passcode protections to give the FBI unfettered access to the contents held within the device.

In part, Amazon and the other companies associated with the amicus brief wrote:

Amici here speak with one voice because of the singular importance of this case to them and their customers who trust amici to safeguard their data and the most sensitive communications from attackers… Amici are also united in their view that the government’s order to Apple exceeds the bounds of existing law and, when applied more broadly, will harm Americans’ security in the long run.

Given its vigorous defense of Apple’s efforts to encrypt user data, removing device encryption on its own devices could likely be seen as a bit hypocritical. So it was only a matter of time before Amazon would have been compelled to “fall in line” with the new industry norm.