Looking at Russia's Vkontakte social network on an iPhone 5 in Moscow

Russia has been extra-sensitive to technological threats to its government as of late, and that's clearer than ever in the wake of a new government proposal. Communication Minister Nikolai Nikiforov has suggested that Apple and SAP should hand over their source code to prove that it doesn't have "undeclared capabilities" for spying on Russian agencies. In other words, he doesn't want to give the NSA free rein just because an official brought an iPhone to work. While he isn't certain as to whether or not institutions will keep using products whose code remains a secret, there's an implication that Apple and SAP may be locked out of government contracts if Putin and crew believe there's too much of a risk. Much of that business could go to Microsoft, which has been cooperating with Russia since 2003.

Neither Apple nor SAP has commented on the proposal so far, although the concept came about after their national managers met Nikiforov last week. Whether or not they're forced to make a decision about their code, it's not clear that divulging source code will be effective. Many of the NSA's intrusion efforts are based on security exploits, not voluntarily created back doors -- innocuous code on any platform can still contain surveillance-friendly bugs. And yes, there's a degree of irony when Russia has been accused of both discouraging political transparency and using malicious code to spy on world leaders.

[Image credit: AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin]