This is a sad story. A leaker identified on Twitter as @analyst941 says they were shut down by Apple. If their story is true, analyst941 was fed information by their sister, an Apple employee, who the company identified in a sting operation involving false information. In a farewell post, analyst941 said their sister was fired and that both she and they face legal action by Apple.
Apple hasn’t confirmed the story, but the accuracy of analyst941’s previous leaks makes it credible that they had an insider source. Apple’s sting operation also conforms to typical corporate anti-leak policy; in the security world, such an operation is called a canary trap. (Many years ago, a leaker told TidBITS editor Glenn Fleishman that Apple has long seeded different project code names to uncover leaks.) Find the general area of the leaks, feed different people uniquely trackable information, and then fire, sue, and—if the leak constitutes a crime—report those responsible to the authorities.
There’s nothing good about how this situation appears to have unwound, which exemplifies why TidBITS doesn’t cover rumors. In the technology field, outside of a whistleblower revealing illegal behavior, lies about a company’s products or services (particularly around data security), or activities that could endanger the public, leaks of confidential corporate information generally cause everyone to suffer—or at least look bad.
- Leakers break social and legal contracts with their employers, usually from a desire to seem important, though financial reward can also be a motive. Neither is positive, and the repercussions of being discovered can be life-changing. These people want to have their cake and eat it, too: they want to keep their job and show off by releasing secrets, such as in the case of Jack Teixeira, who allegedly posted confidential Pentagon documents to a Discord server.
- Companies come off as heavy-handed for running sting operations against employees and resorting to harsh penalties. But they have little choice given that revealing corporate secrets could materially hurt both the company and, by direct extension, its employees and shareholders. For example, Apple could see billions in lost or deferred iPhone revenue if buyers delay purchases in anticipation of rumored features.
- Publishers profit from this illicitly gathered material and encourage potential leakers with the promise of fame. Some even pay for information, adding a financial incentive. Creating a market for stolen secrets is responsible in part for generating a lack of trust between employers and employees, which encourages burdensome employment contracts and excessive employee surveillance. I never want TidBITS to benefit from the misfortunes of others. I write based on information that comes from reliable sources underpinned by analysis, publicly accessible documents, and other sorts of verifiable disclosures that aren’t leaks and don’t seem to harm individuals or our community.
- Consumers provide the paying (at least with their eyeballs) audience for this material, thus implicitly rewarding publishers and leakers alike. Why? The attraction of learning information that companies want to keep secret is almost salacious—how different is hearing that iOS 17 might offer options for alternate app stores from following rumors of <insert celebrity name here> cheating on their spouse? Yes, there can sometimes be utility in learning pre-release details, but is illicitly obtained information worth the cost?
Getting on my high horse is unlikely to make much difference in the tech media landscape. But I feel that shining a light on the corrosive nature of trafficking in leaks is worthwhile if doing so can even slightly reduce their supply and demand.