Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN) removed the local data encryption on its Fire Tablets that were introduced in September because its customers were not using the feature, according to the company’s spokesperson.
Technology observers noted the removal of the encryption as the company released updates to the older versions of the Fire operating system this week.
The company’s move also attracted attention because it came amid the ongoing legal battle between Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and the U.S. government regarding the iPhone encryption.
Robin Handaly, the spokesperson for Amazon, explained that the company only removed the encryption on devices, but the communication between Fire devices and all data stored in the company’s cloud are still encrypted.
“All Fire tablets’ communication with Amazon’s cloud meet our high standards for privacy and security including appropriate use of encryption,” according to Handaly.
A backward move
Some experts in the technology industry commented that Amazon’s decision was puzzling. Others believed it was a step towards the wrong direction because it would encourage hackers to try to gain access to the Fire tablets and steal users’ date.
Jeremy Gillula, staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the Associated Press, “It’s concerning from a security point of view, you lose your tablet or your tablet is stolen, any data that’s stored is readable.”
Amie Stepanovich, the U.S. policy manager at Access Now, said, “This move does not help users. It does not help the corporate image and it does not fit into industry trends.”
Nathan White, a senior legislative manager at Access Now, also commented, “Amazon’s decision is backward — it not only moves away from default device encryption, where other manufacturers are headed but removes all choice from the end user to decide to encrypt it after purchase.”
On the other hand, Gartner analyst Avivah Litan said that most hacking happens on the cloud instead of a person’s specific device. According to her, people are overreacting to the decision of Amazon because of the ongoing debate on encryption.
“It comes at a sensitive time during a debate over encryption, so it seems like a much bigger issue than it is,” said Litan.
Take note that Amazon was among the technologies companies that filed a joint amicus brief supporting Apple in its legal fight against the U.S. government over the iPhone encryption.