Photo bySteve Buissinne
Apple Warns Employees against Leaking… in a Memo That Leaked
This is too precious. Apple has warned employees against leaking information to the media, which Mark Gurman of Bloomberg Technology learned about via… a leaked memo. Ouch. Apple notes in the memo that it caught 29 leakers, all of whom lost their jobs, and 12 of whom were arrested. It’s clearly a career-limiting move.
That said, it’s hard to see leaks as entirely bad. Although leaks do rob Apple of the opportunity for big reveals and cut into sales of older products due for replacement, Apple does benefit from the non-stop drumbeat of rumors and speculation fueled by the leaks. Plus, while it’s entirely reasonable for Apple to want to control what is announced, it’s somewhat troubling when the company plays favorites with who is anointed with early or special access.
Also, people leak information for a variety of reasons, including self-importance and the thrill of sharing a secret. But leaks can also happen when employees feel that the company is being overly and unnecessarily secretive.
What I find more telling is the revelation that several employees were actually ARRESTED for leaking in the past.
Who says Apple was trying to keep the memo a secret? Wouldn’t they want this crackdown info as widely spread as possible in order to intimidate leakers?
Is it a leak if an executive does it intentionally?
Why is this surprising? Stealing company property and leveling it is a criminal act. In all likelihood the steps needed to access the data to be leaked is also a criminal act.
Granted, if exposing illegal activity this might be protected, but in the case of just leaking company trade secrets there’s no question there is a crime.
Misappropriating trade secrets is a federal crime but it looks there has to be not only harm to the secret owner but also economic benefit for someone else. I think a lot of leakers don’t economically benefit and don’t do it to economically benefit someone else.
I wonder, for the purposes of the law, what qualifies as a “trade secret.” The definition linked to from the above federal crime link gives a fairly broad definition; it seems like anything could be a trade secret but it does stipulate that “the information derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known.” Leaks like a photo of an unreleased iPhone probably would not meet that test most of the time (maybe there would be some value if you could deduce a change in dimensional measurements).
If a leakers leaks something to acmeblog and acmeblog runs ads and gets lots of revenue from the exposure, then acmeblog has benefited from the leak.
As for trade secrets, that is pretty much anything a company says it is. A leaked photo of an iPhone that, for example, allowed third parties to design a new case would certainly meet both criteria.
The law is nearly 100% on the side of the company on this. really, the only legal protection is if your leak falls under a whistleblower protection.
That said, only some of the leakers have been charge/arrested/prosecuted.
Depends on the seniority of the executive, I suppose.
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