Tech giant Apple Inc has refused to provide the source code of its operating system to China despite being asked for in the past two years, the company’s top lawyer has told lawmakers amidst criticism of its stance on technology security by US authorities. Bruce Sewell, general counsel for Apple, said this yesterday during a hearing on encryption convened by House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
“We have been asked by the Chinese government, we refused,” Sewell said, adding that the request was made within the past two years.
Testifying before the Congressional committee, Sewell said strong encryption is the best way to protect the information.
“Strong encryption is a good thing. It is a necessary thing,” he said.
“The government agrees. Encryption today is the backbone of our cyber security infrastructure, and provides the very best defence we have against increasingly hostile attacks.
“The US has spent tens of millions of dollars through the Open Technology Fund and other programmes to fund strong encryption,” he said.
Sewell said administration’s review group on intelligence and communications technology urged the US Government to fully support, and not in any way to subvert, undermine or weaken generally available commercial encryption software.
“At Apple, with every release of hardware and software, we advance the safety, security and data protection features in our products. We work hard also to assist law enforcement, because we share their goal of creating a safer world,” he said.
To suggest that the American people must choose between privacy and security is to present a false choice. The issue is not about privacy at the expense of security, it’s about maximizing safety and security, he argued.
“We feel strongly Americans will be better off if we can offer the very best protections for their digital lives,” he said.
“We have not provided the source code to the Chinese government. We did not have a key 19 months ago that we threw away. We have not announced that we’re going to apply pass code encryption to the next generation iCloud,” he said responding to an allegation.
This came after the FBI sought a court order in February to compel Apple to bypass security features on an iPhone 5C used by San Bernardino shooter Farook, who along with his wife killed 14 people in December.
Apple resisted the order, and the government ultimately dropped the case, saying that it had bought a product from a third party that helped it get data off the device.