TidBITS Doesn’t Cover Rumors. Here’s Why
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.
So I shouldn’t believe the rumor that you were replaced by a generative AI several months ago? How about the rumor that I was replaced by one?
But, kidding aside, the lack of rumor coverage is one of the reasons I enjoy both reading and working with TidBITS. That and its multi-decade dedication to providing useful information instead of clickbait.
I can’t help having some sympathy for the leaking siblings, particularly if the sister was unaware of her brother’s sideline as a rumor-monger. But I also find it difficult not to look at Apple leaks when they are posted. Many if not most are BS, but still, there’s that temptation. I appreciate Tidbits taking the high road and not distracting from your well-presented, factual information.
If Apple had a secret project where they were implanting their employees with brain chips that severed their work selves from the rest of their lives, I say leak away even if it ruins Apple’s surprise announcement of their iChip.
However, almost all of these rumors are about minor things Apple plans. No one has any responsibility to leak that Apple is testing the new M3 or there will be a 15” MacBook Air. Even if Apple is planning a whole new product like virtual goggles or a car, there is no moral responsibility to leak. And if you’re an Apple employee, you don’t leak info like this at all.
I don’t like leaks about upcoming products or plans.
Rumor-mongering always seems like an awful lot of energy going into something that people are going to know about anyway soon. I can understand it in politics where there may be serious issues being concealed but I have a hard time seeing how knowing about the next iPhone a few months early is all that important.
(I do wonder about the legal action? Against the employee, sure, but unless the SIBLING was employed by Apple I don’t think THEY have any legal requirement to keep it secret).
And on the far end of the leaking spectrum…
Ditto what Michael E. Cohen said (well, in his second paragraph, anyway, and assuming he was the author rather than his aforementioned generative AI unit). And thanks, TidBITS, for keeping close to the Jack Webb approach, accompanied by reasoned analysis and explanations wherever appropriate. There are many sites one can check for rumors, and I find myself trusting them about as much as I trust the brick-and-mortar-store checkout stand journals describing impregnations by Martian colonists after the abduction of JFK and Elvis. Unless it’s clear that society is actually in danger from something Apple (or any other entity) is engaged in, employees really should honor the understanding of what stays on the Mile. As for the potential liability of the brother for the sister’s actions, conspiracy to commit a crime pops up in my mind, and theft of an employer’s property and secrets likely constitutes a crime on which a conspiracy prosecution can be levied against every participant, employee or not. Just sayin’. Or maybe revelation of company secrets is not a crime. I dunno.
Yes, we will know about everything as soon as we need to know it. Maybe even sooner!
And it is true for political issues, too! Even if you are about to vote on something, a rumor is a poor basis for a decision.
And if you are not voting on something, it is just selling ads.
Hah, that actually sounds like how Hide My Email works!
I find Apple a hypocrisy. I understand how Apple wants to control its products and accountability to shareholders. But when Apple gives the keys to China (PRC party) and complies so that it can have access to labor and manufacturing…the Chinese certainly don’t seem to care about stealing/sharing IP.
When I was in my 20’s, I dreamed of a job at Apple. But wisdom shows that its no longer “that Apple” I was disillusioned with.
That is a sad story too, as the desire to be me-first in getting Apple info out, caused loss of employment, loss of family trust, and now legal actions against the employee (former) and family member leaker. And yet you see Wallstreet speculators that are “in the know” with Apple noting some leaks weeks prior to it. Difference likely, they aren’t bound/enslaved to some non-disclosure paper I guess.
Don’t copy that floppy, is now replaced with Loose rumors sink stocks. And yet, the click-bait fools run to rumor sites of some 3D render of some secret iPhone next design…
I am glad TidBits doesn’t promote nor cater to rumors.
In other news, I decided to replace my 2012 MacMini with a 2023 MacMinPro M2… instead of the M1 Studio Max. I am leaving my “heavy lifting” design/imaging work to a new Ryzen7 Win11 workstation I am finishing up. Note: for those not in the PC build hobby, GPUs are still priced high ($1599 for nVidia 4080). That is more than half the cost of the MacMini M2 I specified. Sheesh, indeed.
I rather miss macosrumors and mackido (the latter is still up if you fancy a nostalgic visit to the glory days).
How do you know the blogger ‘analyst941’ is in fact a brother when the identity of this one singular individual is cleverly erased in this modern they / their malarkey?
You busted me. I am, in fact, analyst941 posting under an assumed name.
I’ve edited the original comment to reflect that, no, I don’t know the gender of the leaker.
Welcome to the English language, which evolves quite rapidly.
Using the singular “they” in situations where gender is either unknown (as in this case) or unimportant is now common among professional style guides, including ours and Apple’s, shown below.
Yes, I hate all these modern phrases that we started using in the 1300s. Why can’t people stick with good proper 1200s English!
source: Oxford Dictionary of English
Or so they says. Could just be a rumor.
Excellent article, Adam. Thank you for your integrity.
Those who receive inside information and trade sticks based on it can face insider trading charges. Doesn’t matter how much money is invested or if there are losses.
Stocks aside, clearly providing inside information carries serious risk.
I was an employee at Emagic, the company that made Logic, when Apple bought us in 2002. Some time after that, they began work on GarageBand. My job for I think about a year was putting GarageBand through its paces looking for bugs. (That was a fun year of work.) When Steve Jobs and John Mayer announced it at MacWorld in January 2004 I’m pretty sure there was not a single leak ahead of time. I was really proud of our team for keeping it a surprise.
There is always ‘his and hers’ or ‘he and she’ to use.
An excellent article and laudable ethic not publishing rumors. I’m sure it’s hard to compete with outlets that have no, such compunction.
In his farewell post, analyst941 came off as somewhat immature revealing - to me, at least - a person likely raised on social media and thirsty for “likes”. This sad situation provides a good example of why such actions can be damaging, if not destructive - and not solely to the individual propagating the rumor/leak. He took advantage of a familial relationship which now appears to be seriously damaged - perhaps even long term/permanently.
There really is no, true “victimless” crime. I wish them the best.
The biggest problem I see with rumors is that tech blog posters often take a rumor as verified fact and run with it, often vilifying Apple in the process. Of course when this rumor is debunked there are rarely any apologies.
Fun interview with the founder of MacRumors:
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