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Russian government asks Apple to hand over source code amid spying concerns

Former Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and late Apple CEO Steve Jobs

Russia's Ministry of Communications and Mass Media has suggested that Apple should open its source code for government inspection to ensure that the iPhone maker is not complicit in enabling U.S. intelligence services to spy on the world's largest country.

Russian Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov made the same proposition to German firm SAP, one of the most prominent software consultancies in the world, according to Reuters. The suggestion came during a meeting between Nikiforov, Peter Engrob Nielsen — Apple's top Russian executive — and SAP managing director Vyacheslav Orekhov.

"Edward Snowden's revelations in 2013 and U.S. intelligence services' public statements about the strengthening of surveillance of Russia in 2014 have raised a serious question of trust in foreign software and hardware," Nikiforov said in a statement.

"Obviously, companies which disclose the source code of their programmes are not hiding anything, but those who do not intend to establish cooperation with Russia on this issue may have undeclared capabilities in their products," he added.

Microsoft agreed to a similar proposal in 2010, granting the Russian Federal Security Service access to source code for Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft Office 2010 and Microsoft SQL Server. The FSS is roughly equivalent to the Central Intelligence Agency in the U.S.

The documents revealed by Snowden have caused substantial concern on the part of foreign governments when it comes to trusting the security of U.S. technology, much of it directed at Apple thanks to the massive popularity of the iPhone and iPad. Most recently, Chinese state media called iOS's location tracking features a "national security concern," accusations that Apple vociferously denied.

"Apple is deeply committed to protecting the privacy of all our customers," the company said in a response to the Chinese reports. "Privacy is built into our products and services from the earliest stages of design. We work tirelessly to deliver the most secure hardware and software in the world."