Ex-Apple employee arrested for stealing Apple Car secrets

Ex-Apple employee charged with stealing self-driving car secrets		
		
	Matthew Panzarino

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   	11 hours

Authorities arrested Zhang at the San Jose airport on Saturday after he purchased a last-minute plane ticket to China.

Zhang also disclosed that he would be taking a position at Xiaopeng Motors, a Chinese startup company that focuses on electric cars and autonomous vehicle technology. An XMotors spokesperson says the firm has always abided by the law and notes, "There is no indication that he has ever communicated any sensitive information from Apple to XMotors".

However the leak has also raised wider concerns in the industry about tech giants protecting their data from insider breaches, particularly after Tesla also issued a lawsuit against a former employee last month. A former Apple employee is charged for stealing company secrets through his gadgets. Many on that project remain, though, and are working on other projects inside the company, including computer vision, mapping and AI.

Of course, not all of those 5,000 people are necessarily working on the project full time.

The project that was considered a "closely-guarded secret", according to the complaint.

An Apple spokesman said in a statement to Bloomberg that the company "takes confidentiality and the protection of our intellectual property very seriously". After being interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in late June, Zhang admitted to stealing the information and was arrested on July 7 for attempting to leave to China. A plea has not yet been filed.

The complaint did not state whether the chip was intended for self-driving cars. Zhang's Apple devices were taken when he resigned, and his network activity was analyzed in detail. Authorities allege Zhang had downloaded "copious pages of information" from various confidential databases. According to a court filing, Zhang worked on the company's self-driving vehicle initiative, dubbed "Project Titan", as a member of the Compute Team.

Armed with that evidence, Apple called Zhang in for a second interview on May 2.

Now, matters related to the Apple Car have taken another interesting turn. There is also security footage that shows Zhang visited the Apple campus in late April, accessing both hardware and software laboratories in that visit. Zhang explained he had taken the hardware because he thought it would be useful to him on another project. As for the files, he said he had wanted to study the data on his own time.

A later search by Apple investigators found that 60 percent of the information on his wife's computer was "highly problematic", according to the complaint. A complete evaluation of the files is ongoing.

Zhang voluntarily left Apple on May 5.

Apple did not immediately return a request for comment on the technical aspects of the complaint. He was arrested on July 7 after going through the security gates at San Jose airport.

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