Can other technology companies defy the government the way Apple did when asked to help US federal investigators to crack the code of iPhone 5C?
Unlikely. Especially in jurisdictions where the governments may not be so benign in pursuing hidden material in electronic devices or data centres. Not EMC Corporation, the world's largest data storage multinational.
"We must comply with any sovereign demand in any jurisdiction that we work in," said David Webster, President and Senior VP, Asia, Pacific and Japan of EMC, when asked how the company would react to demand for data, especially where they are offering cloud storage facilities.
EMC supplies cloud computing hardware and software to data companies and others through its subsidiary VirtuStream, which it acquired in 2015. It offers infrastructure as a service to governments and private companies. It provides protection to data through encryption which is not easy to break.
Webster said their high level of protection assures the data integrity of material sent by clients to cloud centres, but those who want to be extra cautious can set up such centres in different jurisdiction. He was talking to the media at the EMC World annual conference here.
According to Matt Waxman, Vice President of Product Management, Data Protection and Availability Division of EMC, integrity of data was very important to the company and it had put in place both software and hardware based protections.
The question of sovereign demands on data generally had not arisen because it supplies hardware and software for cloud computing which typically are managed by their clients. The responsibility would the clients, he said.
But he agreed that EMC would be liable to provide data in its own cloud computing centres if governments demanded. That was true for the US, Europe or China. "That is something the legal department would have to grapple with," he told IANS in an interview.
Dell and EMC announced their $67 billion merger in October last year, the largest such action by tech companies in history. Earlier this week, Michael Dell, Chairman and CEO of the larger company, said at a Las Vegas conference that the merged entity would be called Dell Technologies. The enterprise company, though, would be called Dell-EMC.
Dell is a $58 billion company taken private two years ago. The $25 billion EMC will change its status from a corporation to a private company before the merger, expected to be finalised between June and October this year. The merger is awaiting final approval from US and Chinese regulators.
The question on security of data arose after US authorities took Apple, the computer and mobile phone giant, to court for refusing to give them access to encrypted material in an iPhone that they had confiscated from two shooters in San Bernardino last December. The married couple were killed in a police shootout after the two had killed 14 people.
Apple said it could not comply with the court order and had expected to take the battle to the US Supreme Court. But the Federal Bureau of Investigation chose to hire a tech firm to break the Apple 5c encryption paying them over a million dollars. The case was then withdrawn by the FBI. But the question of sovereign jurisdiction over data was left hanging.