Apple has received many requests over the past two years from Chinese authorities regarding handing over its source data, but the Cupertino, Calif.-based company always refused to do so, according to a statement by Apple’s top lawyer to lawmakers on Tuesday. The statement was in response to the criticism the company has faced from U.S. law enforcement because of its stance on technology security.
Is Apple more lenient with China?
The recent disagreement between Apple and the FBI over unlocking encrypted data from an iPhone recovered from one of the terrorists of the San Bernardino, Calif. shootings has given birth to the issue of how much cooperation private technology companies should provide to governments. Law enforcement officials are attempting to portray Apple as complicit in providing information to China’s government for business reasons but refusing to do so for the U.S., which had been requesting access to private data in criminal cases, says Reuters.
Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell told Tuesday’s hearing under oath, “I want to be very clear on this. We have not provided source code to the Chinese government.”
The claim resurfaced in a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee. The hearing was called for the purpose of examining potential common ground between law enforcement and the technology sector in the encryption debate, but little came of it after more than three hours of testimony.
No valid proof
Apple quietly provided its cooperation to Beijing, which is strict in matters of technology regulation in exchange for access to its market, claimed Capt. Charles Cohen, a commander for the Indiana State Police. But when Rep. Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat, pressured Cohen to produce the source of that claim, Cohen cited just the news reports.
Eshoo was left frustrated, and said, “That takes my breath away. That is a huge allegation.”
In the San Bernardino case, the Justice Department argued that it would demand source code underlining Apple’s products sometime in the future, but currently, it is just seeking cooperation in writing new software, using which the passcode protections on the phone could be disabled. However, technology and security experts argue that if the U.S. government succeeds at obtaining Apple’s source code with a conventional court order, other governments may also demand rights to do the same.
On Tuesday, Apple shares closed down 0.53% at $106.91. Year to date, the stock is almost flat, while in the last year, it is down by over 14%.