All users can now enable iCloud Advanced Data Protection, an opt-in feature to get end-to-end encryption for almost all data stored in iCloud, including messages, photos, and device backups.
The feature is activatable once users upgrade to iOS 16.3, currently in developer beta, with a public release of the new software update expected to arrive next week.
Under the default setup, Apple retains the keys to decrypt your iCloud data on their servers. This is required to support account recovery and other features.
But for users wanting ultimate data protection, iCloud Advanced Data Protection allows users to encrypt their iCloud data with their own device passcode so that Apple doesn’t have a key. This means that even if Apple’s servers were hacked, the intruders would not be able to read your personal data without knowing your passcode.
iCloud Advanced Data Protection rolled out at the end of last year with iOS 16.2 in the United States. Apple said it would make the feature available around the world in 2023. iOS 16.3 delivers on that promise.
If you want to enable iCloud Advanced Data Protection, open Settings -> [your name] -> iCloud -> Advanced Data Protection and follow the steps to turn it on. When iCloud Advanced Data Protection is enabled, it is critically important to remember your password. However, the phone will guide you to set up account recovery provisions, in case you do lose access to your account, like a trusted contact or printable recovery key.
Law enforcement groups heavily rely on iCloud for data collection as part of an investigation, by simply sending a search warrant or subpoena for Apple to retrieve a suspect’s iCloud backups. With iCloud Advanced Data Protection enabled, this is no longer possible as Apple cannot simply decrypt the information.
It remains to be seen whether governments in certain regions will push back against Apple’s rollout of end-to-end encryption. If end-to-end encryption becomes illegal in certain markets, Apple would be forced to comply and make iCloud Advanced Data Protection unavailable to those users.