Tensions are high as Apple and other Tech Titans are set to Meet with China's Internet Czar in Seattle Next Week
Last week we posted an extensive report titled "The U.S. is on the Cusp of Taking Action against China for Cyber Espionage that Could Affect Apple and other Tech Firms." The report set the background surrounding the tensions between tech companies like Apple and the Chinese Government over having to hand over source code to satisfy China's need to fend off any security threats. And though the Chinese Government suspended their demands over the summer, they were designed to be used as a threat to the U.S. that could be put back into effect in a heartbeat if the U.S. hits China with sanctions or penalties regarding charges of espionage and cybercrimes. The Chinese are well prepared to act and have even set up a meeting with Apple and other U.S. tech titans for next week in Seattle to discuss the tensions that both sides have. The meeting has been strategically set so that if Obama officially moves to punish China for espionage, the meeting in Seattle next will likely be on a negative footing. So the tensions are very high behind the scenes.
According to the New York Times, "The Chinese government, which has long used its country's vast market as leverage over American technology companies, is now asking some of those firms to directly pledge their commitment to contentious policies that could require them to turn user data and intellectual property over to the government.
The government distributed a document to some American tech companies earlier this summer, in which it asked the companies to promise they would not harm China's national security and would store Chinese user data within the country, according to three people with knowledge of the letter who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The letter also asks the American companies to ensure their products are "secure and controllable," a catchphrase that industry groups said could be used to force companies to build so-called back doors — which allow third-party access to systems — provide encryption keys or even hand over source code.
Next week, Beijing has also planned a tech forum in Seattle between China's Internet czar, Lu Wei, and tech companies including Apple, Facebook, IBM, Google and Uber, in a show of how it can get some of the world's leading tech players to meet even as President Obama has suggested American companies are being hurt by anticompetitive Chinese practices. The forum is timed to coincide with President Xi Jinping's first state visit to the United States.
Signing the new pledge could set a precedent of American tech firms openly cooperating with Beijing and enabling snooping on users. Conversely, a refusal could bring fresh restrictions or penalties for companies in China's enormous market. For more on this story, read the full New York Times report.