China asked Apple for its source code within the past two years

During a hearing in front of Congress on Tuesday, Apple’s top lawyer Bruce Sewell confirmed that the Chinese government has asked Apple for its source code, and Apple refused. 

Republican congressman Tim Murphy from Pennsylvania asked Sewell about providing source code to China, and he responded:

“We have been asked by the Chinese government and we refused,” Sewell said. When Murphy followed up, Sewell clarified that China had asked “during the past two years.” 

Because the exchange took place during a congressional hearing, Sewell was under oath when he made those comments. 

Source code is one of the most valuable assets any technology company has, and Apple’s code for software such as iOS or Mac OS X has incalculable value.

The Chinese government has put pressure on American software companies in the past to modify their software for the Chinese market. Microsoft, for example, produces a custom version of Windows 10 for the Chinese government, although that doesn’t mean that that software has a “back door,” or a way for the government to access data on users’ machines.

Before the question-and-answer part of the hearing started, Sewell added three notes to his prepared remarks: 

  • Apple has not provided source code to the Chinese government
  • Apple does not have an encryption key that it had months ago that it has since thrown away
  • Apple has not announced that it plans to add passcode encryption protection to iCloud

Here’s the video of the congressional hearing: 



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