Apple has a long history of trying to tightly control information about its products and culture. According to a new report, Apple recently sent a memo warning employees not to leak company information, saying 29 employees were caught last year, 12 of whom were arrested.
Naturally, the memo was leaked. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman got a copy of the sternly worded missive, which was posted to an internal Apple message board. It’s unclear when it was posted.
“Leakers do not simply lose their jobs at Apple. In some cases, they face jail time and massive fines for network intrusion and theft of trade secrets both classified as federal crimes. In 2017, Apple caught 29 leakers. 12 of those were arrested,” said the memo published on Bloomberg.
Apple didn’t specify who was arrested or what they were charged with. The memo said the leakers were Apple employees as well as contractors and supply chain partners.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The memo obtained by Bloomberg cites specific examples of people the company caught, including an employee who leaked information about the company’s plans from an internal meeting. In a separate incident, an employee who leaked the final version of an unreleased version of iOS, its mobile operating system, was found within days and fired. Multiple employees were caught sharing details about the iPhone X, iPad Pro and Airpods with a 9to5 Mac reporter, according to the memo.
“The employee who leaked the meeting to a reporter later told Apple investigators that he did it because he thought he wouldn’t be discovered. But people who leak — whether they’re Apple employees, contractors or suppliers — do get caught and they’re getting caught faster than ever,” said the memo.
Recent technology, often created by the very companies involved, is making it easier for internal investigators to discover which employees are divulging information. In the memo, Apple credits its own “investments” and digital forensics for helping it catch leakers. Apple’s Global Security team led the internal investigations and worked with suppliers to beef up their security.
A recent Guardian article detailed some of Facebook’s alleged internal tactics for catching leakers, including monitoring employee’s computer and phone activity.
Warren Braunig, a partner at Keker, Van Nest & Peters who specializes in trade secret law, thinks it’s unlikely the arrests were related to employees giving information to reporters.
“The memo conflates ‘leaking’ —which is likely a violation of Apple’s corporate confidentiality agreement but not criminal — with serious criminal wrongdoing such as stealing trade secrets for a competitor, or hacking into Apple’s property computer systems,” said Braunig. “Apple is obviously trying to minimize leaks from employees. That’s a reasonable goal, but talking about the number of employees you’ve had arrested seems like an over-the-top scare tactic.”
Apple is known for not divulging any information about upcoming products before they launch. It’s signature press event formula, honed by Steve Jobs, relies on an element of surprise. Leaks have become more common under CEO Tim Cook, but this memo claims many of the supply chain leaks have been stopped.