In a move that’s pretty much guaranteed to create controversy back in IBM’s home country, the company has reportedly started allowing officials from the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology to review the source code to some of its products. This is apparently being done to assuage China’s fears that software from American tech companies may present a security risk. People have already called out IBM on its eagerness to work with Chinese authorities, and the decision to allow its source code to be reviewed definitely isn’t going to help its image.
International Business Machines Corp. has agreed to let China review some product source code in a secure room, according to two people briefed on the practice, making it the first major U.S. tech company to comply with Beijing’s recent demands for a stronger hand in foreign technology there. IBM has begun allowing officials from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology to examine proprietary source code—the secret sauce behind its software—in a controlled space without the ability to remove it from the room, the people said. It wasn’t clear which products IBM was allowing reviews of or how much time ministry officials can spend looking at the code. The people said the practice was new and implemented recently. IBM Greater China General Manager Shally Wang referred questions to the company’s media-relations office on Friday. An IBM China spokesman didn’t respond to requests for comment. Officials at the Chinese ministry didn’t respond to a request for comment. Chinese media reported that IBM Senior Vice President Steve Mills disclosed the source-code sharing in a speech in Beijing Thursday, saying that IBM needed government support to continue its growth in China. Mr. Mills’ remarks couldn’t be immediately confirmed.