This is the best announcement I’ve heard from Apple in a while. Lily Hay Newman reports on Slate:
In the new mobile operating system, all you have to do is add a passcode (which you should already have anyway!) to opt in to encryption that denies Apple special access to your data. Apple announced on Wednesday night that even if it gets a warrant from law enforcement for your data, it will be unable to comply if you have this encryption enabled. …
In the wake of NSA spying revelations, tech companies felt a backlash when it became clear that they were forking over user data to U.S. law enforcement without much resistence. By locking personal data down so companies themselves can’t access it, they sidestep the issue of whether or not to comply, and avoid being accused of obstructing justice.
As the Washington Post explains, the difference in iOS 8 is that adding a passcode automatically opts users in to the new encryption. In previous versions of iOS, Apple maintained some backdoors into passcode-protected devices. In the company’s new privacy section, it says:
On devices running iOS 8, your personal data such as photos, messages (including attachments), email, contacts, call history, iTunes content, notes, and reminders is placed under the protection of your passcode. Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data. So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.
Of course, we’re throwing the fences down when we install apps like Facebook, but this is a good start.