Until now, Apple would let you store your Photos on their iCloud cheaply and easily with one condition: at one point Apple would have access to see them, unencrypted.
Now with their new Advanced Data Protection setting, you can stop them being able to. Because now you have the power to put your Photos under lock and key by encrypting them, and only you’ll have the keys to decrypt them.
All this talk of data & crypts giving you the death stare? Let me break it down for those of you who like me still remember sending holiday postcards. Imagine you’re on vacay with your Polaroid camera, which prints your poolside pics. You’re sightseeing so you don’t want your luggage overflowing with photos, so you lick an envelope and airmail them ahead, flying through the clouds, to Tim Cook’s place in California to take care of until you’re back. Tim’s short on space in his penthouse suite so he’s shedding the envelopes and storing the photos in a closet under lock. He’s always promised to only take yours out and mail you them in a newly sealed envelope when you request them. But what if he puts the wrong person’s swimsuit pics in? Or his house gets raided by the FBI who force him to unlock the door? Or robbers simply break down the door and the whole roomful of unsealed pictures gets stolen?
Tim Cook may run the most sophisticated tech company ever to have existed, but Apple have now admitted that in the virtual realms, this latter breach into their storage containers – by virtual criminals – is more likely than ever. So when you send Apple your Photos – or Notes or Bookmarks or Files or even Backup snapshots of your iPhone apps - best to put them under a lock that no robber can break! That way they’ll be under your lock in Apple’s storage, and all the way back to your end. That’s why it’s called end-to-end encryption, what privacy nonprofits like Signal and Proton Mail have always done with your data. Now Apple are making the laudable effort to implement this for zero extra cost across their iCloud – except for Calendars, Mail & Contacts, which they argue 3rd parties like your calendar-scheduling tool or email app need to be able to peek into – and calling it Advanced Data Protection. Protects your data? Hell yeah. Advanced? Well, it’s as simple as going to iCloud Settings and turning it On! The hardest it gets is keeping those keys you seal your virtual packages with safe. Fortunately, there’s already a physical device you carry in your pocket which can act as your key: your iPhone itself! All you’ll need to do is unlock your Apple device with your biometrics or PIN, and you’ll be able to download those Photos to view! But just like with front-door keeys to your house, you’re probably best to make a copy (‘recovery key’), and give one to a friend or neighbor (‘recovery contact’), just in case you lose that Apple device! But if you are lucky enough to buy Apple, head to iCloud Settings now and turn on Advanced Data Protection. Next time you’re by the pool, you can snap away on your iPhone without a care in the world! Except to get that perfect sunset lighting on the pina colada..
This was originally written for an unsuccessful job application to EFF, with the prompt:
In three paragraphs or less, how would you describe Apple’s new Advanced Data Protection for iCloud to someone who has never heard of it but wants to learn more? How would you explain the pros and cons?
I wanted to make it available for people to share with non-technical family members who don’t think it’s worth clicking a couple buttons to make the most of their (currently UK-threatened) freedoms to multiply prime-numbers to circumvent privacy-breaches by BigTech and governments.
I found it was more reliably turned on via iOS rather than Mac which falsely claimed still not available here.
Wondering which alternatives I use for the final 3 non-encrypted? I use Proton for Calendar & Mail & (email) Contacts. I currently have phone numbers just on Light & i Phones, no Cloud backup. May need to briefly re-enable iCloud though to update Light Phone, cos the most popular .vcf export app looks even more invasive.
Let’s make the most of our online freedoms, while they last.