How Apple’s anti-leak rules came back to bite them

“Foiled prototyping. Factory photos stalled by secrecy. Travel bans that slow decisions. The tech industry’s most important hardware maker is still figuring out how to manage a remote workforce as the Covid-19 outbreak disrupts its operations.”

From “How Apple Is Working From Home” ($) an exclusive from The Information:

Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak in January, Apple sent dozens of employees to China each day to oversee the manufacturing of its products, former employees say. Last year, United Airlines boasted that Apple was its largest global account, spending $150 million on flights each year, with Shanghai and Hong Kong the top two destinations, according to a banner intended to be seen only by United employees, a photo of which was widely circulated online. Apple was responsible for 50 business class seats a day to Shanghai, the banner said.

But in late January, Cook restricted employee travel to China…

One employee said if a hardware component breaks on the factory line, the company is asking manufacturers to send photos to engineers in the U.S. to assess the problem, since there are often no Apple staff on-site to troubleshoot the issue. The employee described the photos as grainy, adding that they were never quite as clear as engineers needed them to be.

One factor complicating the taking of these photos is that Apple has long had strict rules that prevent the bringing of unauthorized devices onto factory floors, according to former employees and documents reviewed by The Information. Only authorized employees are allowed to handle cameras, which must be approved, logged and accounted for at the end of each shift.

The cameras can’t have wireless functionality and must have their removable storage sealed with tamper-proof and serialized stickers. Images taken from these devices can only be uploaded via designated computers and by approved personnel. Each image also must be logged and credited to the person who took the photo.

Since the coronavirus now prevents Apple employees from traveling to factories, some employees say product teams are pushing to enable more factory workers to take and share photos. However, Apple managers are concerned this could lead to product leaks.

My take: I blame MacOkartara, Slashleaks, BGR, 9to5Mac, MacRumors. Mark Gurman and, of course, Steve Jobs.


  1. David Emery said:
    I dunno. That quote sounds like typical Anti Apple FUD to me.

    Fortunately, I never worked on a classified project in all my time in the “military-industrial complex”. But I know they do have significant successes, even though ALL the work has to be done inside a SCIF (Secure Compartmented Information Facility – i.e. a vault).

    March 30, 2020
  2. Fred Stein said:
    Apple will not compromise quality, nor worker safety, nor their own privacy. Schedule may take a hit.

    March 30, 2020

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