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There’s no harm in asking, goes an old saying.

That’s what I thought when reading that Russia has asked Apple and SAP to let it peruse their source code to make sure their applications aren’t being used for spying. The account was revealed by Reuters, which noted it comes at a time when Western countries are ratcheting up their sanctions against Russia for supporting rebels in Ukraine.

The Russian proposal was made 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, Reuters said the Communications Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry 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.

Right. No coincidence that it comes at a period of tension between Russia and the world.

It does bring to mind, though, the pressure that BlackBerry, Twitter, Skype and others have been under from several countries to hand over its encryption keys. Ultimately some sort of resolution was found.

Undoubtedly Apple and SAP will stoutly resist letting anyone go near their code. No one, they might point out, asks Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab to hand over its code.

Russia does have one card to play: According to the Reuters story, the government says Microsoft has been sharing Windows source code with Atlas, a technology institution that reports to the communications ministry.

What will be the fate of Apple and SAP if they don’t co-operate? Russia isn’t saying.

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