Good news: Apple has officially responded.
Bad news: We don’t buy it. Their response seems to address a different issue; worse, some of the reporters just quoted what Apple said without real understanding of the actual issue. So let’s try to follow the story step by step.
Apple has an option to back up phone data to iCloud. Doing that for many years now. On our side, we have a feature to download iCloud backups. The feature has been there for years, too. We are also able to download everything from iCloud Drive (including data belonging to third-party apps, something that is not available by standard means). We can download media files from iCloud Photo Library (and by the way, we discovered that they were not always deleted, see iCloud Photo Library: All Your Photos Are Belong to Us). Then we started to research how iOS devices sync data with iCloud, and discovered that Apple stores more than they officially say. All iOS versions allow users to choose which bits of data are to be synced – such as contacts, notes, calendars and other stuff. Here is a screen shot from iCloud settings captured on iPhone running iOS 10: