Apple Employee Allegedly Stole Self-Driving Car Tech
Apple Employee Allegedly Stole Self-Driving Car Tech
Apple's had another leak and this time it's personal
12 July, 2018, 03:42
Zhang took paternity leave in April 2018, following the birth of his child, during which he traveled to China. Apple has kept that research and development a closely guarded secret, and authorities said Zhang was granted broad access to confidential internal databases.
During his resignation, he turned over two iPhones, a MacBook and complied to Apple's intellectual property policy, according to the complaint.
A statement Wednesday from XMotors said there was no indication that Zhang communicated sensitive information from Apple, the Reuters news agency reported. According to the complaint, Zhang initially denied to Apple security being on the campus during his leave but when confronted with the evidence, admitted he was there and that he removed items from the labs.
According to the complaint, Zhang was shown a "proprietary chip" by employees and was working on circuit boards that could have been part of a sensor fusion project, which involves using multiple sensors to make the cars more accurate in their decisions while in self-driving mode. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents interviewed Zhang on June 27, and authorities say Zhang admitted to taking files from Apple.
Upon his return to Apple at the end of April, he told a supervisor he was quitting to return to China to be near his ailing mother.
"Apple takes confidentiality and the protection of our intellectual property very seriously", said company spokesman Tom Neumayr to Bloomberg.
The complaint said that the former employee, Xiaolang Zhang, disclosed intentions to work for a Chinese self-driving auto startup and booked a last-minute flight to China after downloading the plan for a circuit board for the self-driving vehicle. But Apple became suspicious when his level of network activity "increased exponentially" before his resignation, and officials say he ultimately admitted downloading self-driving vehicle technology files to his wife's laptop. Shortly before this meeting and while on leave, authorities say Zhang had taken a trip to China with his family. The latter incident in particularly damning as the complaint alleges Zhang took circuit boards and a server used by the autonomous driving program. As for the files, he said he had wanted to study the data on his own time. A complete evaluation of the files is ongoing. We also don't know if Apple's IP was successfully transferred to a third party by Mr. Zhang before his arrest.
Zhang voluntarily left Apple on May 5. He was arrested on July 7 after going through the security gates at San Jose airport. He surrendered at the airport without incident. Zhang is facing federal charges of Theft of Trade Secrets, with recommended penalties of 10 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, a $100 special assessment and three years of supervised release. Zhang's arraignment is set for July 27th.
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