A recent memo detailed the lengths to which Apple is willing to go to stop employees from leaking information about upcoming products. Its an on-going problem. Last years iPhone X launch, you might remember, was spoiled by a leak to Bloombergs Mark Gurman. And while that may have been the largest, it certainly wasnt the only leak Apple had to deal with. All told, the company caught 29 leakers last year, all of whom were fired. 12 were arrested. Some employees, however, didnt seem to get the memo. But the press did, right after an Apple employee leaked it to Bloomberg. Last month, Apple caught and fired the employee responsible for leaking details from an internal, confidential meeting about Apples software roadmap. Hundreds of software engineers were in attendance, and thousands more within the organization received details of its proceedings. One person betrayed their trust. The employee who leaked the meeting to a reporter later told Apple investigators that he did it because he thought he wouldnt be discovered. But people who leak — whether theyre Apple employees, contractors or suppliers — do get caught and theyre getting caught faster than ever. In many cases, leakers dont set out to leak. Instead, people who work for Apple are often targeted by press, analysts and bloggers who befriend them on professional and social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and begin to pry for information. While it may seem flattering to be approached, its important to remember that youre getting played. The success of these outsiders is measured by obtaining Apples 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. The impact of a leak goes far beyond the people who work on a project. Leaking Apples work undermines everyone at Apple and the years theyve invested in creating Apple products. Thousands of people work tirelessly for months to deliver each major software release, says UIKit lead Josh Shaffer, whose teams work was part of the iOS 11 leak last fall. Seeing it leak is devastating for all of us. The impact of a leak goes beyond the people who work on a particular project — its felt throughout the company. Leaked information about a new product can negatively impact sales of the current model; give rival companies more time to begin on a competitive response; and lead to fewer sales of that new product when it arrives. We want the chance to tell our customers why the product is great, and not have that done poorly by someone else, says Greg Joswiak of Product Marketing. The memo is a lengthy one, and this is just a snippet of whats included. It goes on to say that leaks carry serious consequences and that journalists are essentially leeches that want to befriend tech employees only to leak information ascertained from these marks. Maybe you can hear my eyes rolling, but I dont know a reporter that would sacrifice a sources anonymity (thus risking their job or freedom) in exchange for a story. Responsible reporters consider the well-being of a source first. A single story isnt nearly as valuable as a trusted individual inside a company like Apple, after all. And trust works both ways. It wraps up with this: While they carry serious consequences, leaks are completely avoidable. They are the result of a decision by someone who may not have considered the impact of their actions. Everyone comes to Apple to do the best work of their lives — work that matters and contributes to what all 135,000 people in this company are doing together, says Joswiak. The best way to honor those contributions is by not leaking. I have a different solution for Apple, one that could minimize future leaks. Perhaps the company could take a look at its slogan and Think Different, especially in how it works with the press. When Apple PR wont engage with most members of the media — instead subscribing to a walled garden approach in an attempt to control the message — it leaves reporters hunting for this information on their own. When reporters go digging for information, Apple shouldnt be surprised when they find it.
In an internal memo to employees, Apple threatened severe consequences for leaking confidential company information – reminding staff that those who leak can lose their jobs, have difficult finding future employment, and even get arrested. Last year, Apple claimed to have busted 29 leakers, 12 of whom were arrested. The memo itself was leaked, and its content was published by Bloomberg this afternoon. Apple has always cultivated a culture of confidentially about its work, as a means of maintaining a competitive advantage over the competition. Given how large Apple has grown over the years – the memo says there are 135,000 people working there – its become more difficult to keep things under wraps. By the time a new iPhone launches, for example, people already know what to expect. That can give rivals a head start on catching up with Apple, ahead of an actual public unveiling of the device. Leaks can also impact sales of current devices, as consumers hold off on buying as they know something better is soon to arrive. Apple more recently has had problems with leaked iOS source code, as well as leaked details about the iPhone 8 and X, Apple Watch Series 3, Apple TV 4K, HomePod, and more. And that was just in 2017. The new memo is not the first time Apple has tried to plug its leaks. Last year, the company held a meeting with employees where it discussed how it plans to prevent leaks, talked about how leakers were caught, and answered employees questions. That meeting was secretly recorded and leaked to the press too. In reality, some leaks can be harder to track or stop. A company-wide meeting or email, for instance, could be leaked by anyone. The new memo begins by informing Apple employees that the person who leaked details about Apples software roadmap earlier this year was caught and fired last month: Last month, Apple caught and fired the employee responsible for leaking details from an internal, confidential meeting about Apples software roadmap. Hundreds of software engineers were in attendance, and thousands more within the organization received details of its proceedings. One person betrayed their trust. The employee who leaked the meeting to a reporter later told Apple investigators that he did it because he thought he wouldnt be discovered. But people who leak — whether theyre Apple employees, contractors or suppliers — do get caught and theyre getting caught faster than ever. The memo then goes on to stress how damaging leaks are to the company itself, those who worked on a project, and other employees. It reminds employees that when theyre approached by press, analysts and bloggers theyre getting played. The establishment of a very us-versus-them culture when dealing with outsiders is notable because it means Apple employees may fear becoming whistleblowers. Employees will likely also fear leaking to correct inaccurate information being passed around publicly. Today, there are reports that Apples own comms teams wont respond to, when asked by press – unless the report reaches a critical mass, or worse – is unflattering to Apple. But unlike at other companies where a PM or staffer may reach out to privately correctly a detail or give background outside of official channels, Apple staff would be fired for crossing that line. The memo also points to more examples of how Apples internal security has caught people who believed they could get away with it – including the person who leaked the link to the gold master of iOS 11, and those who leaked within the supply chain. It concludes by sharing the news that 12 of the leakers in 2017 were arrested. 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, the memo read. These people not only lose their jobs, they can face extreme difficulty finding employment elsewhere. Theres a certain kind of person who will find language like this a challenge. But the majority will likely take heed. The memo was published as an internal company blog post. The full memo can be read on Bloombergs site.