News / Europe

Russia Wants Apple, SAP to Cooperate Against Foreign Spying

A man walks past a recently erected iPhone-shaped monument in memory of Apple's late co-founder Steve Jobs in the yard of the State University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics, St. Petersburg, January 10, 2013.
A man walks past a recently erected iPhone-shaped monument in memory of Apple's late co-founder Steve Jobs in the yard of the State University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics, St. Petersburg, January 10, 2013.
Reuters

Russia has proposed that Apple Inc. and SAP hand the government access to their source code to make sure their widely used products are not tools for spying on state institutions.

The suggestion that two of the world's flagship technology companies disclose some of their most sensitive business secrets comes as the United States and Europe debate their most severe sanctions yet against Russia for its role in Ukraine.

On Tuesday, the United States imposed a new round of sanctions, hitting three Russian banks, including the country's second-biggest, VTB.

The European Union reached agreement on Tuesday on its first broad economic sanctions, marking a new phase in the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.

The Russian proposal was voiced last week when Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov met Apple's general manager in Russia, Peter Engrob Nielsen, and SAP's Russian managing director, Vyacheslav Orekhov, the Communications Ministry said in a statement.

It said the proposal was designed to ensure the rights of consumers and corporate users to the privacy of their personal data, as well as for state security interests.

While couched in the language of protecting privacy, any Russian move to force these companies to divulge the inner workings of their software could pose a major threat to their viability if they were to lose control of the source code.

“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 the statement released late on Tuesday.

He was referring to bombshell disclosures by the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor that revealed widespread NSA snooping through eavesdropping on popular technology products and services. Since then, experts have concluded that U.S. government-backed standards for software encryption have created backdoors for the NSA to spy on users.

Russia is not alone in challenging technology companies to come clean about their privacy practices.

Governments ranging from Germany to Brazil to China to India and dozens of other nations are revising technology practices in light of the NSA revelations — although most stop short of asking that technology companies disclose their source code.

Crown jewels

A computer's source code is the underlying set of computer instructions that control the functioning of any software program and translate it into machine-readable instructions for computers. Source code represents the crown jewels for any software maker and most major commercial software companies jealously guard the code as their most precious secrets.

“Obviously, companies which disclose the source code of their programs 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,” Nikiforov said.

The ministry cited its more than decade-long cooperation with Microsoft. The U.S. firm has been sharing its source code for the Windows operating system and other products since 2003 with Atlas, a technology institution that reports to the communications ministry.

The ministry said the prospect of state companies using software and hardware when the producers do not share their source code with the government “remains uncertain.”

SAP and Apple both declined any immediate comment.

The business models that have grown up around source code fall into two basic camps: Proprietary and open-source. Proprietary software makers strictly copyright their source code to prevent rivals from copying its hidden features.

An increasing popular alternative is open source software whose developers provide open access to their source code and encourage collaborators to make modifications and improvements.

Typically, open source software makers charge customers for services and other products rather than for the software itself but must of the world's biggest tech companies resist doing so.

Apple, the world's most valuable company by market capitalization, is best known for its distinctive range of computer and phone devices, which it seeks to distinguish through its closely-guarded proprietary software.

SAP, the world's fourth largest maker of business software, by revenue, and Germany's largest technology company, makes business planning software that many top multinational companies use to maintain financial control of their far-flung operations. It too keeps close guard over the source code of its products.

You May Like

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Rubic Cube
July 31, 2014 10:41 AM
Simple solution, don't provide the source code. Let the Russians develop their own computer software programs which they can control. Imagine the havoc the Russians can create, if they have the source codes. This would be the demise of the West and financial institutions.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs