The Chinese government has managed to convince Apple to turn over their source code to assuage fears of secret backdoors and spying. This brings many years of pressure from the government to an end, although the move could have also have been prompted by US whistleblower Edward Snowden’s comments about the iPhone last week.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has allowed China to perform a full audit of the source code for iOS, which runs on the iPhone and iPad. These two products are incredibly popular in the country, despite the strict controls in place. The Chinese government has always maintained that Apple’s mobile devices are a threat to national security; although being able to view the source code should reduce the concerns of spying.
It should be noted that Apple has generally cooperated with any government on concerns of national security, and is usually willing to share information if requested. However, a source code audit is a huge step; and may raise concerns that it would allow the Chinese to figure out their own backdoors to the platform.
The decision to allow China to view the iOS source code came suspiciously close to a comment from Edward Snowden’s lawyer about the security of the iPhone. According to the attorney, Snowden does not own any Apple devices because the American National Security Agency has secret backdoors that will allow them to remotely spy on the user.
While this “special software” may not be built into the operating system, it should have raised concerns in the security minded communist country. And at the very least make it easier to allow their analysts to spot any such spying if it really does exist.