Former Apple employee Weibao Wang on Tuesday was officially charged with theft of trade secrets for stealing Apple Car information and giving it to China, reports CNBC.
In an indictment [PDF] from the United States Department of Justice, Wang was charged with six counts of trade secret theft for secretly accessing Apple Car data between 2016 and 2018.
Wang had a position on the Annotation Team during his tenure at Apple, working on algorithms to accelerate the process of annotating real-world objects. Because of his position, Wang had “broad access” to databases that included information about the project. Access to the information that he had access to was limited to just a few thousand of Apple’s 135,000+ full-time employees.
As you might expect, Wang has signed confidentiality and Intellectual Property Agreements in order to gain access to the information. Wang also attended training the included information about the consequences of stealing data.
In 2016, he downloaded Apple’s “entire autonomy source code,” and stole additional information about autonomous systems and hardware shortly before resigning in 2018.
Wang resigned due to accepting a position at the U.S. subsidiary of a Chinese company developing autonomous driving technology. When he submitted his resignation, he did not inform Apple about where he was headed. Apple reviewed data access logs in May 2018, finding that Wang had accessed sensitive details right before his departure, which is when the Department of Justice became involved.
In June, the DoJ searched Wang’s residence. He quickly bought a one-way plane ticket from San Francisco, California to Guangzhou, China. The extent of the theft was uncovered after Wang arrived in China. A warrant has been issued for Wang’s arrest, and if he is extradited and convicted, he could face up to 60 years in prison.
Wang is the third Apple employee to be accused of attempting to steal secret Apple Car information for China. In 2022, former Apple employee Xiaolang Zhang pled guilty to theft of trade secrets as part of a plea bargain. Zhang had attempted to flee the country, but he was caught before he could make it outside of U.S. borders. A third employee, Jizhong Chen, has been charged but has pled not guilty.