After finding itself in the midst of a sudden controversy when customers realized that the company disabled its encryption feature for its Fire devices, Amazon.com has decided to restore the security feature, stating that encryption would be available with an upcoming software update this spring.
Without making too much of a fuss, Amazon removed encryption services on its devices that run the company's heavily skinned version of Android, Fire OS, in December. Doing so reduces operating and maintenance costs, though it does compromise the security of devices to a significant degree.
Unsurprisingly, customers who noticed that encryption was no longer possible for their Fire devices immediately voiced their concerns. With the current encryption battle between the FBI and Apple over a terrorist's locked iPhone coming to a climax, the discovery of Amazon's decision came as an unwelcome surprise to the company's millions of customers.
Amazon, however, stated that the encryption feature was removed from the latest iteration of its Fire OS simply because very few people use it. Critics, however, were not impressed, with some, such as cryptologist Bruce Schneier, calling the removal of the security feature "stupid" while urging the company to restore encryption features to its devices.
True to its reputation, Amazon has responded quickly to the controversy, releasing a statement on Saturday through its spokeswoman, Robin Handley.
"We will return the option for full-disk encryption with a Fire OS update coming this spring," she said in an emailed statement.
As the issue reaches new heights, a number of actual Fire OS users, especially those using the company's $50 Fire Tablet, have said the issue was blown out of proportion.
After all, most of the company's Fire OS devices fall somewhere between affordable to ridiculously cheap, with the company's Fire Tablet costing just $50 at its regular price. Thus, Fire devices have garnered the reputation for being devices that are used simply for media consumption. Thus, it would seem like only a small percentage of users actually use the company's ultra-affordable devices to store sensitive information.
Then again, as security advocates always say, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Encryption services on Fire devices allowed Amazon's tablets to scramble their data so that sensitive contents could only be accessed by entering a passcode. If a passcode is incorrectly entered 30 times, Fire devices are programmed to automatically wipe all data.