The New York Times this morning reported that Apple, perhaps in wake of the celebrity photo leak, it has increased the security measures in time for the launch of its newest iOS.
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.
However, there is one big caveat, which the NYTimes noted. If you want matters to be private, then you should not use iCloud services, because:
[t]he new security in iOS 8 protects information stored on the device itself, but not data stored on Apple’s cloud service. So Apple will still be able to hand over some customer information stored on iCloud in response to government requests.
This is interesting, because with launching iOS 8, these iOS devices heavily rely on you also enabling your iCloud account and storing as much information as possible on there. Many of the native apps on iOS are adept to this iCloud backup/storage and also many third-party apps. To again take the example of the leaked photos of celebrities recently, those were not from the devices themselves, but taken, most likely, from iCloud storage. Future incidents like this are not solved by making access to phones themselves more difficult, but perhaps might benefit from the newly introduced ‘two-step-verificiation‘ .
Thus, it might be a step in the right direction, but it in no way means that your data is private, especially when using iCloud. However, it does boost privacy for those instances in which law enforcement are allowed to access ones phone, as they will now have access to encrypted, and hence virtually useless, data (when it comes to messages and FaceTime. When it comes to the US, the June 25, 2014 decision of the Supreme Court in Riley v. California (PDF) has shown that for law enforcement to ‘search’ a phone the bar has been set much higher now.