Amazon drops encryption support from Fire devices
March 4, 2016 // 2:40 p.m.
Amazon has released a firmware update for its Fire tablets, which brings a rather unwelcome feature: the disabling of storage encryption.
Based on Google's Android but redesigned to focus, naturally, on Amazon's own services, the Fire OS 5 update for Amazon's Kindle Fire, Fire HD, Fire TV stick, and staggeringly unpopular Fire Phone devices brings a seriously unwelcome change: the loss of the ability to encrypt data stored locally on the device. Worse, when installed on a device running a previous Fire OS and already using Android's built-in storage encryption facility, the update will refuse to install until the user manually decrypts the storage.
Amazon has defended the move, claiming that 'when we released Fire OS 5, we removed some enterprise features that we found customers weren’t using.' The company's statement on the matter goes on to reassure customers that 'all Fire tablets’ communication with Amazon’s cloud meet our high standards for privacy and security including appropriate use of encryption,' but does not address the reason for forcing users to store their personal data unencrypted on the device itself.
The removal of encryption support comes even as Amazon joins a myriad of technology companies in support of Apple's refusal to insert a back-door in an iPhone for the US FBI to decrypt data held on the device - something the FBI wouldn't even have to request of Amazon, following the installation of Fire OS 5, as there is no encryption to beat: just image the device and riffle through its contents at your leisure.
Those with Fire OS-based devices who use encryption presently are advised to reject the update, and make their displeasure known to Amazon. Those who do not use the encryption feature are, naturally, unaffected.