Apple has reportedly refused to provide the source code for its operating system to Chinese authorities. The disclosure came at a hearing entitled, "Deciphering the Debate Over Encryption: Industry and Law Enforcement Perspectives," called by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee.
"We have been asked by the Chinese government and we refused," Bruce Sewell, Apple's general counsel told the members of the House of Energy and Commerce committee, while adding the request came in the past two years.
Sewell appeared before the lawmakers in an attempt to balance the interests of law enforcement and security in the encryption debate. Apple and the Department of Justice (DoJ) had taken their battle to court over US prosecutors' demands that Apple help the government obtain data from the iPhone of the San Bernardino attacker.
Sewell, in his response to the question raised by the lawmakers about the company's stance on the issue, said Apple employees co-operate with law enforcement regularly. "There is a fundamental disconnect between the way we see the world and the way law enforcement sees the world," added Sewell.
Thomas Galati, chief of intelligence for the New York City Police Department, said the investigators were unable to get data from 67 Apple devices during investigations linked to rapes, murders and the shooting of two police officers, says a Financial Times report.
Galati said: "We recently heard a defendant in a serious felony case make a telephone call from Riker's Island in which he extolled Apple's iOS 8 and its encryption software as 'a gift from God.'"
Apple clarified its policies after the DoJ accused the company of making special accommodation for China. China is a key market for Apple. Revenues for China hit $18bn (£12.5bn) in the last quarter. Apple boss Tim Cook said China is likely to overtake its US market.
Apple received 1,005 requests from Chinese authorities to reveal details related to 2,413 devices. Of these, it provided data in two-third of the cases. In contrast, Apple received 4,000 requests for investigation related to 16,112 devices in America, wherein it provided data in 80% of the cases.
Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, Consumer Technology Association (CTA), in his response to the hearing said, "The discussion isn't about the tech industry versus law enforcement or privacy versus security but, rather, to quote Sen. Ron Wyden 'more security versus less security.' Consumers and the government both want and need encryption to protect personal data, credit information, computer systems, intellectual property and more from malicious hackers, terrorists and thieves."
"Right now, encryption is our best defense against cyber-attacks and 'backdoors'. That means making sure everyone's data is secure and tech companies need to create strong security and provide assurances to their customers without fear of legal reprisal," added Shapiro.