updated 01:07 pm EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Companies will likely be hesitant to comply
The Russian government has proposed that two Western companies, Apple and SAP, grant access to their source code so it can determine whether or not products are tools for spying on state organizations and/or the public, Reuters reports. Russia's communications minister, Nikolai Nikiforov, is said to have made the request when he met last week with Apple's local general manager, Peter Nielsen, and SAP's local managing director, Vyacheslav Orekhov. In an official Communications Ministry statement, Nikiforov comments that "Edward Snowden's revelations in 2013 and US 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."
Apple and SAP are likely to resist the pressure to share source code, since it contains guarded business secrets that could potentially leak to rivals. It might also allow the Russian government to conduct its own spying. At the same time, resistance could potentially shut the companies out of the Russian market. The Communications Ministry says that it "remains uncertain" if businesses refusing to share source code will be able to sell software and hardware to the government. Since 2003, Microsoft has been sharing source code for Windows and other products with Atlas, an organization that reports to the Ministry.
Relations between Russia and the West have deteriorated sharply during the past year, first because of Snowden exposing questionable NSA practices, and more recently due to Russia invading Crimea and backing separatists in eastern Ukraine. Just this week the US and the European Union imposed new economic sanctions, accusing the separatists of shooting down a Malaysian airliner.