WSJ: IBM gives Chinese officials (limited) access to its source code

CeBIT 2011 - IBM Logo

IBM has reportedly started holding demonstrations to show off an unspecified product's source code to people outside the company -- particularly to officials from China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, according to The Wall Street Journal. The Asian superpower has been asking tech companies for access to their programs' codes, which are typically closely guarded secrets, for quite some time. Apparently, it wants to make sure the US hasn't installed backdoors on American-made software as a way to spy on its citizens.

But why has IBM decided to comply with the country's demands while many other tech corporations (with President Obama's blessing) continue to refuse? Chinese media has been reporting that it's because Big Blue needs the government's support to expand in the market, though that's yet to be confirmed. An IBM spokesman clarified to Forbes that the company's far from being the first to give in, claiming that Microsoft also allows Chinese officials to poke into its software. In addition, it was reported earlier this year that Apple gave China permission to look into what makes iOS tick.

To be clear, the company hasn't given officials a copy of their source code or allowed them to examine it for an extended period of time. Instead, these demos are held inside a secure room with no internet or any other connection to the outside -- IBM doesn't want its technology stolen, after all. Further, officials can only test and examine the source code for limited periods, suggesting that this is really more of a symbolic gesture. This new demo program has also been launched in other countries besides China, though the report didn't mention what those nations are.

[Image credit: Patrick H~/Flickr]