Encryption has a certain forward momentum to it: methods for protecting files and devices tend to keep getting better and better over time, not worse. Just look at how tying encryption to things like fingerprint security has made it easier to use (and trickier to crack) or how Android full-disk encryption started out as an optional feature, only to emerge as standard on Marshmallow-powered hardware. That’s why we’re so surprised to see what’s going on with Amazon and its Fire OS Android fork, as the company dials-back the clock on encryption, removing the option for the latest Fire OS 5 release.
It used to be that Fire OS supported standard Android full-disk encryption for users interested in protecting their devices with the feature. But now with the new Fire OS 5 update, Amazon’s removing the option to keep encrypting devices going forward.
With the current legal battle with Apple and the FBI over smartphone encryption, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was somehow Amazon’s way of showing it was on the side of the feds, but on closer inspection that doesn’t appear to be the case.
Far from it, actually: Amazon’s even filed a brief supporting Apple in its fight against being compelled to break its own security. Instead, Amazon says that this change is very much a pragmatic one – users simply weren’t taking advantage of the encryption option in Fire OS, so the company doesn’t see the point in continuing to support it.
Granted, it might have been nice to keep support there as a legacy option, but we’re not the ones tasked with keeping up-to-date a forked version of Android – and if dropping a rarely used feature makes that job a bit easier, we’re not sure we can blame Amazon for its decision – as much as we may not like it on principle.