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Failures

by Timothy Geigner


Filed Under:
journalism, leaks, press

Companies:
apple



Apple's Internal Memo Warning Employees Not To Leak To The Press Leaks To The Press

from the of-course-it-did dept

Whatever the actual numbers, it seems like some hefty percentage of technology news revolves around leaks of one kind or another. Whether it concerns government, corporate, or legal proceedings information leaking to the public, it happens enough that at this point the operating posture of any organization should probably be to expect leaks, rather than flailing at modernity and trying to stop them. Hell, if the White House can't keep what seems like literally anything under wraps, what hope does the average business have?

Apple, of course, is not an average company. And, yet, when the company put out an internal memo warning its employees not to do the leaking, that memo almost immediately leaked to the press.

On Friday, Bloomberg News published what it described as an "internal blog" post in full. The memo warned that Apple "employees, contractors, or suppliers—do get caught, and they’re getting caught faster than ever."

The post also reportedly noted that, "in some cases," leakers "face jail time and massive fines for network intrusion and theft of trade secrets both classified as federal crimes," adding that, in 2017, "Apple caught 29 leakers, and of those, 12 were arrested."

Memos like this set off a delightfully oppressive mood within the organizations that send them. Part of the reason for that is that the practice of leaking is so widespread so as to make the selective persecution of any leaker seem callous and unfair. Add to that the simple fact that well-timed strategic leaks are practically marketing SOP in many larger organizations and this seems doubly so. And, finally, I cannot be the only one struck by how low Apple's catch-rate feels within the memo itself. 29 leakers caught in a year? That has to be some unimpressive fraction of the actual leakers that exist.

Anyone who might want to argue the points above needs to make that argument in the context of a reality in which this scare-memo itself leaked to the press. That this occurred only buttresses the argument that battling all leaks all the time is a losing battle. And if that's the case, then the selective enforcement of anti-leaking policies will only come off as both confusing and capricious.

Not to mention a giant waste of time and money, compared with incentivizing employees to leak only when its beneficial to the company.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2018 @ 8:11pm

    Context required

    29 might seem like nothing, or it might be huge. It depends greatly on how many unwanted leaks Apple had in a year. For starters, any leak that could reasonably be expected to be good PR is probably a "good" leak and is not seriously investigated (and may have been encouraged). Any leak that hurt the company is a "bad" leak and might prompt an inquiry. Even then, if the leak wasn't embarrassing enough to be worth the time to find the leaker, it might be quietly ignored. So to decide whether a catch-rate of 29 leakers is impressive or pathetic, we need to know how many "bad" leaks the company had, how many of those were bad enough for management to care, and how many of the serious leaks trace to a repeat leaker. If there were one or a few serial leakers responsible for multiple substantial leaks before their detection, 29 could still be a good rate even if the company had plenty of bad leaks.

    I agree with the author that 29 seems like a very low count of prospective-leakers in a company the size and type of Apple.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 17 Apr 2018 @ 8:39pm

    Oh, the iRONY.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Christenson, 17 Apr 2018 @ 8:56pm

    Leaking....like piracy...

    You know, techdirt has been saying for years piracy is a symptom, and how pirates spend more on music than everyone else....

    Leaks, especially harmful ones, are also symptoms...I'd like to see someone analyze apple leaks and determine what's gone south with the culture there!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2018 @ 9:19pm

    Leaks serve as a valuable tool for product development, especially in gauging public sentiment about plans to remove features and end legacy support. Not to mention the free publicity that any kind of leak provides.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    totally unashamably, 17 Apr 2018 @ 9:52pm

    Gay

    Gay

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2018 @ 11:54pm

    As far as being arrested, most Apple can probably afford a really fast car like Camaro with the 6.2 engine.

    All employee has to do is get in, get on the freeway and FLOOR IT. At 171 miles an hour top speed, CHP vehicles would not able to catch them.

    Ford electronically limts their Police Interceptor to 140 miles an hour. Crown Vic, Taurus, and Explorer police interceptor vehicles could be outrun. There is no car, right now, in the California Highway Patrol (CHP) fleet fast enough to catch a high end Camaro with the 6.2 engine.

    So any Apple employee that can afford should get themsleves one of these, so that if police to try arrest you for leaks, you will have car that outrun every police vehicle on the road in California.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2018 @ 12:56am

      Re:

      There is the little device called a radio, and it allows the police ahead of you to be coordinated to block you path.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        dadtaxi, 18 Apr 2018 @ 3:06am

        Re: Re:

        Or Apple just could just give your name or even home address to the police. Its not outside the realm of possibility

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2018 @ 5:18am

        Re: Re:

        Radios can also be listened in on. All apple employees should have a scanner, so that is running to avoid arrest should happen, their transmissions can be listened in on, so you know what they are up.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          JoeCool (profile), 18 Apr 2018 @ 6:29am

          Re: Re: Re:

          The CHP also has this vehicle commonly called a "helicopter", which flies considerably faster than any car. If you've ever watched a high-speed pursuit on the news, they "chase" the car with a helicopter, which keeps it in sight at all times, telling the police where it's going so that they can block the proper streets.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2018 @ 8:16am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            No,no, no, this is the proper way to do it. And then when the police start buying military-surplus Apaches ......

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spnH5ynCJvo

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2018 @ 7:42pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Is said Apple employee owns a Mooney M200 Bravo airplane, they can take off and be able to fly higher, farther, and faster than a police chopper. Just get to your plane and get in the air. There is no police chopper that could catch the high performance version of the Mooney Bravo, as it could outfly and outrun any chopper in the CHP fleet.

            The turbo charged engine on it has enough horsepower to allow to fly at 30,000 feet, provided you have an oxygen supply, and if you have the enlarged fuel tanks, you can go about 1,500 miles.

            That 1,500 mile on high performance version of that aircraft would be more than enough to able to get into Mexico, and beyond the reach of the Feds. It is only about 500 miles straight line distance from the San Jose area to the Mexican border. Even the Candian border could be reached without having to refuel.

            There is no helicopter made that can climb to 30,000 feet or be able to follow an aircraft all the way to the Mexican or Canadian border

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2018 @ 4:44am

    Any apple employee arrested for leaks could just post bail then not show up in court. Just head for SFO, and get on a plane leaving the country, and that will be the end of it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2018 @ 4:58am

    Also, it might a good idea for Apple employees to periodicallty run programs like KillDisk on their home computers to wipe the hard disks.

    This so they cannot anything else that you might not know about, to "muscle" you into a plea deal.

    If KillDisk is regualarly used, anything else you don't know about they can use against you cannot be recovered.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2018 @ 5:48am

    That's not a memo, that's a threat letter.

    Allow me to translate:

    "We will knowingly abuse the CFAA and fuck you harder than Aaron Swartz's corpse if you leak anything to the press."

    Whatever. Just one more reason to not support Apple or use any of their products and services. As if we needed any more.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2018 @ 3:36pm

      Re: That's not a memo, that's a threat letter.

      Then all you do if you are arrested is to post bail then flee the country.

      If they put a GPS ankle bracelet on you, you just use a jammer that jams wireless internet so that its link to the monitoring center. This is so they cannot detect it when cut the bracelet off, and then put it in your microwave oven to destroy it. A few seconds in the microwave will destroy the circuitry in the device. They will have no clue that you put it in the microwave and destroyed it. They will just lose all contact with the device

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    profssrfink (profile), 18 Apr 2018 @ 7:54am

    same old story

    I have read many articles over the years about how Apple controls leaks. Leaking can and does harm a company's plans and potential for impact in a market, and employees that don't understand that and want some fame or notoriety for leaking details shouldn't be a part of the organization. That being said I work for a company that has company secrets and releasing those to news outlets would be embarrassing for me and for my employer. Why do it? These aren't state secrets and they aren't leaks tied to whistleblower issues. they are product releases and feature announcements. People thinking they are making a difference leaking sensitive information are just looking for attention and aren't repeating their employer.

    Apple does and can take action, as any company can, about the divulgence about sensitive information.

    I get that certain leaks are purposeful. And the thing is this leaked memo might have been a test to find out who is leaking information. So while this story looks stupid on the face of it, it probably identified a leaker they have been tracking for some time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2018 @ 10:25am

      Re: same old story

      > Blockquote And the thing is this leaked memo might have been a test to find out who is leaking information.

      If I was a very large and cash-rich tech company who really wanted to go after leakers, I would use a portion of that money to personalize every single company-wide communication I send out to catch people like this. While there are too many variables to do it for an individual, you absolutely can do it by department.

      Specific phrasing changes, paragraph changes, hidden characters, unique pixels, unique font substitution, font colour/text size changes, unique character or paragraph spacing, etc. Stuff that gives away the leaker.

      Many reputable news orgs know this can happen and will change the text to protect their source. But I can see a ton of tech blogs just copy and paste exactly in a rush to print, screwing over their source.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bob, 18 Apr 2018 @ 11:51am

    just use 0-width characters like in my comment here to hide text

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Big Bro-ther, 18 Apr 2018 @ 2:04pm

    Remember the big Apple commercial?

    It's the leakers who are more the woman with the sledgehammer, and Apple who's more like the big authoritarian head on the screen.

    "Hello, new employees, and welcome to Apple's orientation. Please be aware that we averaged an arrest rate of one employee per month last year, and that was just among the leakers we caught. So be aware that we are watching you, and breaking our rules will have severe consequences."

    The first Rule of Apple Club is that you don't talk about Apple Club.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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