Ben Cavender
Ben Cavender

State media hailed a deal between Apple and the Chinese government to give access to Apple devices, including the source codes. An unlikely scenario, tells business analyst Ben Cavender to QZ.


Other analysts agreed Apple had probably promised to turn over its source code to China’s government, but disagreed about the consequences.

The access would allow the Chinese government to “run spot checks” on how Apple is protecting user information, and to determine whether other intelligence agencies are trying to snoop on China, said Ben Cavender, a principal at China Market Research Group in Shanghai.

If that is in fact what has been agreed, it’s a landmark deal, Cavender said, and Apple has not generally provided such information to other governments.

“This is a unique situation where China is such an important market to Apple, and they need to be in it. They don’t have the leverage they might ordinarily have,” he said. Still, Cavendish said any agreement would be limited in scope.

“I find it improbable that the Chinese government will have access to anything outside China,” Cavender said. And if the Chinese government did manage to snoop Apple users or services outside the country, “someone at Apple would probably notice,” he said, which would limit the risk for Apple’s worldwide customer base.

Inside China, users are likely to be blasé about any attempts by the government to use its access to snoop on Apple users. “People here kind of operate under the assumption that the government is already looking at what they’re doing,” Cavender said.

More in QZ.

Ben Cavender is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers´request form.

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