Amazon's bringing encryption back to its Fire tablets

A few days ago, we all awoke to the realization that Amazon had removed device encryption features from Fire OS 5—the operating system powering its Fire tablets—when it debuted last fall. After considerable controversy, though, the company says it will reintroduce device encryption in an upcoming software update.

“We will return the option for full disk encryption with a Fire OS update coming this spring,” the company said in a statement.

The story behind the story: In Fire OS 4 and earlier, you could encrypt your Fire tablet and set it to require you to enter a PIN in order to unlock your device. Additionally, you could set your device to erase itself after 30 incorrect passcode guesses.

Although recent debate on encryption has centered on issues involving law enforcement, removing device encryption has more practical implications, too. for instance, by encrypting your tablet and setting it to automatically erase after a certain number of incorrect guesses, you can prevent a thief from gaining access to your personal information—addresses, phone numbers, calendar events, you name it.

Not related to the Apple-FBI case

Encryption has been a hot topic of discussion in the wake of Apple’s ongoing legal dispute with the FBI—a case in which the FBI wants Apple to remove several passcode encryption safeguards from a particular iPhone 5c. With that in mind, it’s important to note that Amazon’s original decision to remove device encryption had nothing to do with any legal case.

Instead, as IDG News Service’s Blair Hanley Frank noted on Friday, the company decided various “enterprise features”—including device encryption—from Fire OS 5 because they went largely unused. According to that report, the lack of encryption in Fire OS 5 only became apparent “because Amazon just allowed older tablets—the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 and the Fire HD 6/7—to upgrade from Fire OS 4.”

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