We’re all going to enjoy the “big reveal” when it takes place later today, as Apple unveils new products at their media event, starting 1PM EST, 10AMPST. But, leaks about Apple’s new products are so numerous lately, we probably already know everything they’ll be revealing. Why is this happening to a company that was so good about keeping secrets in the past?
Products have always leaked out of Apple. To the leaker, knowledge is a form of power, and people throughout Apple’s massive corporate structure have long showed that power by sharing inside information with friends, family, colleagues, investors, and yes, even reporters. The secrecy builds team trust and camaraderie among product teams, but it also fuels the very situation it was built to stop; by making even basic product specs highly desirable, the company gives disgruntled employees a simple but powerful way to vent their frustration through leaking.
A handful of Apple employees spoke to ArsTechnica on the condition of anonymity, and they said the leaks are simply a byproduct of globalization.
The employees say that security is as tight at Apple as it’s ever been. Several engineers even remarked that security is tighter in the days of Tim Cook’s rule. If prototypes are carried around on campus, they must be covered in a black cloth so other employees can’t take a peek. Internal security teams secretly monitor IRC channels where employees “hang out.”
It’s the opinion of these employees that the majority of the leaks that are splashed across Apple websites in the days leading up to a product reveal don’t come from within Apple itself, but from somewhere inside Apple’s global supply chain.
“Apple’s security practices are targeted at making sure US employees don’t leak stuff, but everything comes out of China now,” one employee told Ars. “I think Apple’s secrecy mode is really outdated.”
“Clearly, the people who need the security training are not here,” said another. “They’re not getting the same level of scrutiny as we are, and it shows.”
Another employee added that there are thousands of people who have no vested interest in keeping secrets. Adding that he believes leaks will continue as Apple increases the amount of overseas manufacturing. “It will be increasingly hard to hide the industrial design we do because we manufacture things overseas. Since we don’t do it in the US, it may be hard to surprise people over anything in the future.”
The leaks can make Apple employees’ jobs tougher. As secrets leak out, Apple clamps down harder on the employees it CAN control, whether or not they were involved in the leak. “They keep tightening up things on us—there are code names upon code names upon code names,” one employee said.
Apple retail has seen security tighten too. Reportedly, the stores used to get operating system updates almost a week before the public did, now it can be as little as 12 hours. This hampers retail employees ability to be familiar with what they are tasked to support.
The employees were willing to accept tighter security, even if they didn’t agree that it was beneficial. Until Apple figures out a way to tighten security at its international assembly plants leaks will continue. As one employee said, “If people want to leak stuff, they’ll find a way.”