Amazon to Restore Fire Encryption After Just One Day of Scrutiny

March 5, 2016, 6:52 PM UTC
Amazon's new Fire HDX 8.9 tablet computer.
Amazon's new Fire HDX 8.9 tablet computer.
Courtesy: Philip Newton/

Amazon announced last night that it will restore the option for users to fully encrypt the contents of their Fire OS devices, after it became widely known on Thursday that it had removed the feature last fall. The company said in an email to reporters that encryption would return this spring.

The company initially told reporters that it had removed the feature because of a lack of interest from users. That explanation wasn’t satisfying to privacy experts, and the company’s u-turn may forestall what could have become a PR disaster.

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That’s because, since the removal of encryption from Fire OS in an update last fall, the public discussion about data security has dramatically shifted, mostly thanks to Apple’s (APPL) battle with the FBI over access to the iPhone used by one of the perpetrators of December’s terrorist attack in San Bernadino.

That dispute has turned into a national referendum on data security, complete with street protests. Amazon (AMZN), along with Google (GOOG), Facebook (FB), and Microsoft (MSFT), was part of an amicus brief supporting Apple’s resistance to unlocking the phone, which the companies agreed would set a dangerous precedent. Dozens of other major tech firms have taken the same stance.

For more on the battle over encryption, watch our video.

That brief was filed on Thursday—the same day that Fire OS’s lack of encryption came to light. Supporting impenetrable encryption while removing it from a core product makes Amazon look, at best, disorganized, so a reversal was pretty much the only reasonable option.

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