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Chinese Cyber Security Law goes into Effect in June 2017 that may Require Apple to surrender iOS Source Code

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Back in April we posted a report about China beginning their promised crackdown on cyber security. China had asked Apple for their iOS source code and Apple refused to comply. China is interested in protecting the content that the Chinese people see, policing its national security and favoring indigenous giants such as Huawei, Alibaba and Tencent." In this new era, he added, China "is strongly disinclined to accept the dominance of foreign players on the Internet, not least those from the United States." The Chinese government was also working on a new antiterrorist that would require foreign companies to turn over encryption keys. Though some of the language in the proposal was changed, critics felt it was only a temporary chess move. This weekend the warning bell was rung again as expected renewing fears of forcing foreign companies like Apple to give up their source code.


Bloomberg reported earlier this morning that "China has green-lit a sweeping and controversial law that may grant Beijing unprecedented access to foreign companies' technology and hamstring their operations in the world's second-largest economy.


The Cyber Security Law was passed by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, and will take effect in June, government officials said Monday. Among other things, it requires internet operators to cooperate with investigations involving crime and national security, and imposes mandatory testing and certification of computer equipment. Companies must also give government investigators full access to their data if wrong-doing is suspected.


The measures are part of a sweeping push under President Xi Jinping to control China's internet, including the passage of a security law establishing "cybersovereignty" and making the spread of rumors and defamatory posts a crime.


The requirement on certification could mean technology companies will be asked to provide source code, encryption or other critical intellectual property for review by security authorities. This is something Microsoft already does with its software, under controlled conditions.


While Apple initially refused to hand over its iOS source code to Chinese authorities, it wasn't law at the time. In June 2017, the Chinese government may not ask but rather demand to have Apple's source code by law.


Apple's CEO had told ABC news back in February that if new laws were passed in the U.S. forcing them to comply with warrants to open iPhones that they would comply with the law. Specifically, Cook told the ABC interviewer, "Let me clear. At the end of the day, we have to follow the law. Just like everybody else. So we have to follow the law." There's no reason to believe that Cook's statement won't stand and extend to China.


Will China force Apple's hand on this sensitive issue? Bloomberg notes that "Advocates say the government will issue future regulations to clarify its scope and intent." So it will remain an open question until at least next summer at minimum when clarification of the law will be cemented. But on paper, it appears that the option will remain on the books until they decide to pull the trigger. At that time, Apple is likely to comply.


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