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Saturday, June 8, 2024

Former Apple engineer admits to stealing automotive trade secrets

A former Apple employee has pleaded guilty to sharing trade secrets of the Apple Car project with another electric vehicle (EV) company.

A former Apple employee, Xiaolang Zhang is accused of stealing computer files containing trade secrets about Apple’s secretive car division. Moreover, CNBC has also reported that Zhang left his job at Apple to work for Guangzhou Xiaopeng Motors Technology, a Chinese EV company.

Furthermore, Apple itself has also confirmed that Zhang has stolen about 24GB of qualified information, circuit boards, and a server from the company’s autonomous vehicle lab.

Likewise, the employee was accused of downloading internal Apple files about the company’s car project, specifically a 25-page document including engineering schematics of a circuit board for an autonomous vehicle. He was also reported for taking reference manuals and PDFs describing Apple’s prototypes and their requirements.

Read more: Apple to assemble iPhone 14 in India

Xiaolang Zhang was arrested in July 2018 by federal agents at the San Jose airport, where he planned to fly to China. His hearing is scheduled for November 14th as the punishment for trade secrets in the US is 10 years imprisonment and a fine of almost $250,000.

According to the FBI’s 2018 reports, there were about 5,000 disclosed employees who knew about the project and 2,700 core employees with access to the project materials and databases. The company used internal software to track its employees and after the investigation, it was confirmed that Zhang worked on the autonomous car project’s Compute Team, which designed and tested circuit boards for sensors. These schematics are considered the most valuable trade secrets in the electronic industry.

Moving on, Zhang was first suspected of stealing trade secrets after he took paternity leave and traveled to China. Simultaneously, he also resigned from the job as he wanted to move back to China and take care of his mother.

Read more: Apple becomes first company to reach $3T valuation

In addition to Zhang, CNBC has also highlighted many other employees that have leaked Apple’s trade secrets and it also mentions in its report that an employee was caught stealing manuals, schematics, diagrams, and photographs from Apple’s car project which he was smuggling to China. Similarly, Jizhong Chen, another Apple employee was also accused of stealing trade secrets in 2019.

Therefore, Apple has carried out an in-depth investigation of the matter as Apple Car is one of the most anticipated upcoming vehicles.