Apple, the world’s largest tech company, issued a very stern memo to its employees warning about the consequences of leaking future product and software road maps to the press and analysts. The confidential memo, leaked to Bloomberg, comes after a series of embarrassing leaks in 2017 and 2018 leading up to the launch of the iPhone X, iOS 11, EarPods, and iPad Pro.
This isn’t the first warning the company has issued. In 2012 Apple CEO Tim Cook pledged to double down on secrecy shortly after replacing the company’s founder, Steve Jobs. The company also held a private meeting with employees in 2017 in attempts to stop internal leaks, though many of the leaks mentioned in the memo appear to have taken place after the meeting.
Apple acknowledged product and software leaks are not limited to internal employees. The memo states Apple’s Global Security team “caught 29 leakers. Twelve of those were arrested. Among those were Apple employees, contractors and some partners in Apple’s supply chain.”
A few examples of internal leaks listed in the memo include that of an employee who leaked the golden master of iOS 11 in 2017 and was caught by the company’s internal investigations team within a matter of days. It also calls out 9to5Mac by name as a recipient of multiple product leaks from employees.
Apple advises of the consequences of leaking in the memo, stating that leakers will not only be fired, but can face felony prosecution as well. Tom Moyer of Global Security also warns “the potential criminal consequences of leaking are real, and that can become part of your personal and professional identity forever.”
Apple also warns employees of the possibility of “being played” by journalists and analysts who may attempt to befriend them on social media to gain trade secrets. “The success of these outsiders is measured by obtaining Apple’s secrets from you and making them public. A scoop about an unreleased Apple product can generate massive traffic for a publication and financially benefit the blogger or reporter who broke it. But the Apple employee who leaks has everything to lose.”
While Apple uses its own internal investigations to sniff out internal leakers, the memo also discusses the steps the company is taking to protect its intellectual property when working with suppliers and vendors. Apple’s Global Security division works closely with these third-parties to pinpoint vulnerabilities and ensure its safety practices, both technological and physical, meet or exceed the exacting demands of the tech giant. The approach appears to be working as Apple reported the “programs have nearly eliminated the theft of prototypes and products from factories, caught leakers and prevented many others from leaking in the first place.”
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