Amazon has decided that mobile device data should be kept private after all. This week, the company announced that it has changed course and will re-implement full device disk encryption for Fire OS tablets.
As we noted a few days ago, Amazon recently removed full disk encryption features from its Fire OS operating system, which is used on Kindle tablets. It made the change quietly, without any major press release. It took some time to come to light.
Amazon said it eliminated Fire OS encryption as part of an effort to cut “enterprise features” that most users don’t require. That seems a little silly to us — it’s not only enterprise users who want to encrypt data — but we’ll take Amazon’s word for it.
Fortunately, the company has now reversed gears and says it will restore the encryption feature to Fire OS. It hasn’t specified when, however. It says only that the update will arrive sometime this spring.
It’s also notable that Amazon apparently won’t be turning the encryption features on by default once they are reintroduced. Instead, they’ll just be an option, which users can enable if they like.
That, too, seems silly, given that there’s little reason not to encrypt data by default. Encryption comes with a small performance penalty, but it’s negligible. Most users are likely to agree it’s well worth it. Plus, all modern standard Android devices use full-disk encrypt by default. That makes it even stranger for Amazon not to do the same on Fire OS, which is based on Android.
It seems plausible to speculate — and only speculate — that at least part of the reason why Amazon wants to make encryption more difficult is to avoid the type of confrontation with government authorities over private data access that is currently besetting Apple in its battle with the FBI over iPhone encryption.
In any case, it’s good to know that encryption will become available again for Fire OS tablets. Here’s hoping Amazon doesn’t delay in re-implementing the feature — and that users remember to turn it on.