Amazon dropped, but will restore, encryption on Fire tablets

This week, Amazon made a surprising announcement about its line of Kindle Fire tablets: starting with Fire OS version 5, support for device encryption was being dropped.

No clear reason had been given, beyond this statement to TechCrunch:

In a statement sent to TechCrunch the company said: “In the fall when we released Fire OS 5, we removed some enterprise features that we found customers weren’t using. All Fire tablets’ communication with Amazon’s cloud meet our high standards for privacy and security including appropriate use of encryption.”

So it was removed because “customers weren’t using” it? Bizarre. Especially given the amount of attention toward the ongoing Apple versus FBI iPhone encryption fight, which Amazon’s siding with Apple on.

TechCrunch thought Amazon’s decision might have been a way to improve performance on their low-end $50 Fire tablets. Never mind it’d make more sense to improve performance to match such encryption needs, if that’s the case.

Meanwhile, Apple’s iPads come with security automatically enabled with initial activation of a lockscreen passcode. Android varies by manufacturer, but usually offer some form of encryption. It’s also mandatory on all devices running Android (with some exceptions) starting with Marshmallow (version 6).

On Friday, Amazon announced it’s reversed its decision, and plans to restore encryption “coming this spring” in an update. Presumably the backlash has forced them to change their minds. Still, it’ll be some delay until encryption is restored, and exactly when isn’t stated.

Flickr Creative Commons photo by Zhao (CC BY)

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