Amazon Reverses Course, Encryption Returning for Fire Devices

Twitter, Airbnb, eBay Join Apple's Encryption Debate
  • Company faced a backlash for eliminating security feature
  • Reversal highlights customer sensitivity on data privacy

Amazon.com Inc. will restore encryption as a security option on its tablets and other devices that use the Fire operating system, following a customer backlash driven by increased sensitivity about data protection as Apple Inc. grapples with the FBI over access to a terrorist’s iPhone.

Amazon removed encryption from the devices in late 2015, possibly to reduce costs for its tablets and electronic readers. The devices aren’t intended for communication of sensitive data, although they can be used to access the Internet and e-mail. Some customers complained about the change after they updated their Fire software on older devices and saw encryption was no longer offered.

Amazon reversed course late Friday night, saying in an e-mail that it would restore encryption as an option on Fire devices with a software update “this spring,“ without being more specific.

The dispute between the FBI and Apple over access to a San Bernardino killer’s locked smartphone has sparked a debate about balancing personal privacy and public safety. Most major technology companies, including Amazon, have sided with Apple.

Removing encryption from low-cost tablets and readers had the potential to damage Amazon’s brand at a time the company is marketing new voice-enabled “personal assistants,” including its popular Echo speaker, as prominent fixtures in households to help people play music, dim lights, and order pizzas by voice command.

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