Apple refused China request for source code in last two years: lawyer

Wed Apr 20, 2016 4:21am EDT
 
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By Dustin Volz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Apple Inc (AAPL.O: Quote) has been asked by Chinese authorities within the last two years to hand over its source code but refused, the company's top lawyer told lawmakers on Tuesday in response to U.S. law enforcement criticism of its stance on technology security.

The congressional testimony highlighted an issue at the heart of a heated disagreement between Apple and the FBI over unlocking encrypted data from an iPhone linked to last December's San Bernardino, California shootings - how much private technology companies should cooperate with governments.

Law enforcement officials have attempted to portray Apple as possibly complicit in handing over information to China's government for business reasons while refusing to cooperate with U.S. requests for access to private data in criminal cases.

"I want to be very clear on this," Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell told Tuesday's hearing under oath. "We have not provided source code to the Chinese government."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, asked about the comments, said she did "not understand" details of the situation. She did not elaborate.

China's Public Security Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Apple has previously denied the accusation as a "smear" originating from the U.S. Department of Justice's effort to force Apple to help unlock the iPhone 5c used by one of the two San Bernardino killers, who were inspired by Islamist militants.

The claim resurfaced in the hearing called by a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee to examine potential common ground between law enforcement and the technology sector in the encryption debate, though more than three hours of testimony yielded little clear agreement.   Continued...

 
The logo of U.S. technology company Apple is seen in Zurich, Switzerland April 5, 2016. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann