Former Apple Employee Charged for Allegedly Stealing Trade Secrets

Donna Miller
July 12, 2018

Family members are also barred from learning about the auto project. "For Apple's autonomous auto project to succeed, the company must recognise that there could be unsafe consequences on the road for its customers if its IP falls into the wrong hands". Elon Musk and Tesla were at their peak popularity at the time and such news sold well.

The nature of the stolen documents also reveals something about Apple's plans.

He initially denied going to Apple's labs to take anything.

As a hardware engineer on Apple's autonomous vehicle development team, Zhang's position granted him "broad access to secure and confidential internal databases containing trade secrets and intellectual property", according to the complaint.

Former hardware engineer, who worked on autonomous cars at Apple, arrested at airport, attempting to board a flight for China with company secrets.

While Apple has long kept its rumored project under wraps, the filing of a legal complaint following the fateful development has revealed a few key details about the self-driving vehicle program.

Bloomberg reports Zhang worked as a hardware engineer in Apple's secretive autonomous vehicle program. Fewer people, about 2,700 "core employees", have access to the project's databases.

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But that doesn't mean that the project is dead, or that Apple's inner-workings don't still have information and more pertaining to the project at hand.

In April, Zhang took paternity leave following the birth of a child and traveled with his family to China.

It also said Zhang was shown a "proprietary chip" by his co-workers and designed circuit boards to analyze sensor data, suggesting Apple may be designing its own chips for self-driving systems and working on technologies such as "sensor fusion", in which data from multiple sensors is combined to make it more accurate. After he informed his supervisor of the decision to leave Apple, the latter proceeded to call Apple's security officials. The California-based firm became suspicious after noticing his network activities and visits to his office increased.

Zhang also admitted to Air Dropping information from his iPhones to his wife's laptop.

Zhang apparently took paternity leave in April. Zhang appeared in court Monday, with a Mandarin translator present; he did not enter a plea.

The fact that Apple provided this information to authorities as part of the complaint indicates that further technological details could come to light in court if the case goes ahead, marking a change in attitude for the tech giant which previously fought fiercely to keep details of its self-driving cars under wraps. If found guilty, he could face 10 years in prison along with a $250,000 fine.

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