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Details are emerging about Apple's aggressive corporate tactics thanks to a Gizmodo interview

In the wake of the suicide of a Chinese employee working at Apple's hardware partner Foxconn, Apple's practices have been scrutinized to a greater degree.  The suicide reportedly came after the employee was beaten for losing an iPhone prototype.

Now employees are coming forward and revealing a tale of how Apple has transformed from a hippie haven founded by a free-spirited hackers (Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak) to a land of secret spies and invasive surprise searches.  For Apple's executive leadership, its unusual approach is merely a design to protect the trade secrets that make it arguably the hottest maker of mobile gadgets.  However, to most the company's tactics enter into the realm of paranoia and abuse.

According to Apple employees past and present, Apple maintains a so-called "Worldwide Loyalty Team".  Composed of moles spying at its headquarters, the team's members pose as normal employees only to snitch on those who are suspected to be leaking info.

Describes a former Apple, Inc. employee who goes by the name Tom in an interview with Gizmodo, "Apple has these moles working everywhere, especially in departments where leaks are suspected. Management is not aware of them.  Once they suspect a leak, the special forces—as we call them—will walk in the office at any hour, especially in the mornings. They will contact whoever was the most senior manager in the building, and ask them to coordinate the operation."

The "Loyalty Team" agents then proceed to search employees' belongings and confiscate their phones, while the management coordinates the search.  As employees are only allowed to have company-granted phones on site, its easy for the agents to analyze the employees' phone history for hints of leaking activity.

During the search employees are order to turn on their screen saver and stare at it.  They are not allowed to instant message, text message, call, or otherwise communicate with each other.  Describes Tom, "It is like a gag order, and if the employee does not want to participate, they are basically asked to leave and never come back."

When the agents find what they are looking for, they keep the suspect after work for more advanced interrogation.  Tom states, "I was at several events. When they find what they are looking for—which they usually do—the person is asked to stay until the end of the business day. Then he is asked to leave the premises quietly, escorted by security.  There is a lot that goes behind doors that I don't really know about. I do know, however, that they really interrogate people that are serious suspects, intimidating them by threatening to sue."

All the searches are "voluntary", though refusal to comply typically will lead to dismissal, according to Tom.  Reportedly the secret agents also engage in a diverse set of functions including seeding fake images to catch leakers and discredit the leak machine.  They also work to minimize the internal buzz surrounding significant announcements.

For Apple, the revelations of its secret police are beyond bizarre, but not entirely surprising for the company that exercised secrecy to a point of compulsion, once killing one of its largest leak fan-sites for refusing to reveal the source of its leaks.  They seem especially ironic, though, considering that Apple used a  now infamous 1984-themed commercial to introduce its Macintosh computer in 1984.

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Did Employees Sign NDAs Before Hire?
By ltcommanderdata on 12/16/2009 8:05:39 AM , Rating: 4
I think the most relevant first question is whether the employees had to sign some form of NDA as part of their contract for hire to not be leaking things? These clauses aren't exactly uncommon. If Apple Store employees are under some form of NDA, then investigating a suspected breach, and confirmation of said breach or refusal to co-operate with an investigation could be grounds for termination depending on what the contract said.

In Apple Store employees aren't under some form of NDA in their contract, then these investigations become more questionable.

RE: Did Employees Sign NDAs Before Hire?
By amanojaku on 12/16/2009 8:41:10 AM , Rating: 2
Of course Apple's employees signed an NDA. Most organizations have two things in the hiring contract:

1) An NDA, covering anything from IP to client lists to earnings
2) A right to fire at will, for no cause at all

In the past firings had to be justified. These days a company can fire you without any reason if you put your signature on a document that says so. The reason why you're fired affects how much unemployment you get: half for just cause (you were consistently late, work quality was poor, etc...) and full for no cause. At least, that's how NJ and NY do it.

The problems here are the tactics: they're sneaky and threatening. It's not uncommon for organizations do to "secret shoppers" to check on store quality, but that involves observing employees in their natural state. According to "Tom" the Apple Gestapo CREATES situations in which to catch "wrongdoers". That's basically entrapment.

I understand the need for security to ensure an employee's whereabouts during searches, but forcing an individual to "turn on their screen saver and stare at it" is extreme. Most places send you home until the investigation is complete, and inform you of your legal rights so that you can seek representation if necessary. Once the company has your equipment it's not necessary for them to keep you, and you certainly have no opportunity to critique the investigators' procedures.

This is America. The burden of proof is on the accuser first. Innocent until proven guilty, which I must then disprove, and don't treat me like a criminal until I've been sentenced in a court of law. If Apple truly believes someone is violating the law and wants to sue then it should have all the evidence it needs BEFORE engaging the wrongdoer. Which means Apple doesn't have good security monitoring policies and procedures internally.

By bigdawg1988 on 12/16/2009 6:06:05 PM , Rating: 2
Georgia is a right to work state (not sure about Cali or Washington) so you can be fired at any time for no reason (contract or not) as long as there are no equal opportunity violations.
Hmmm, I wonder if Apple is the only one that hires moles. Everywhere I've worked there's always been that guy who is know company-wide for not doing anything, yet management doesn't do a thing about it. And we thought it was the nekkid pictures....

By Solandri on 12/16/2009 6:13:48 PM , Rating: 2
In the past firings had to be justified. These days a company can fire you without any reason if you put your signature on a document that says so. The reason why you're fired affects how much unemployment you get: half for just cause (you were consistently late, work quality was poor, etc...) and full for no cause. At least, that's how NJ and NY do it.

Apple is HQed in California. California probably has some of the most worker-friendly labor policies in the country (I won't say laws because the laws as written seem pretty reasonable). I've let go employees who worked a week, then never came back to work. After 4 weeks we figured they'd quit and dropped them from our payroll so we could hire someone else to fill the hole in the schedule. When the persons filed for unemployment, we sent off copies of their time cards and explained our reasoning for assuming they quit. EDD (Califonria's unemployment office) declared we'd fired them and gave them full unemployment.

Of course, I assume Apple's legal team is much, much better than our legal team (basically one lawyer on retainer).

RE: Did Employees Sign NDAs Before Hire?
By clovell on 12/16/2009 11:14:53 AM , Rating: 5
Even then, these practices are still questionable from the perspective of company culture, employee retention, and overall work atmosphere.

Hard to be creative at work when you hear about these types of things in your company.

By Suntan on 12/16/2009 12:37:47 PM , Rating: 5

Although I have signed NDAs in the past that basically say the company reserves the right to do these things, the day I get someone coming into my office and telling me to stare at my screensaver while they search my things is the day I hand my boss a resignation letter telling the company to pound sand.

You want to hire professionals, treat them like they are. You want to hire sheep that cower down and meekly agree to give up basic human dignity, no thanks.

But then, I’ve never considered myself a Mac anyway.


By lewisc on 12/16/2009 4:17:17 PM , Rating: 2
While the practices appear a little extreme, thinking specifically of the 'moles' placed within the organisation, the tactics used to investigate suspected breeches of company policy just appear to be those of an internal audit department with a stupid name.

You have to remember, Apple as an organisation does deserve the right to protect their competitive advantage, of which clearly IP is a central component. Having a rigorous corporate governance structure is important to shareholders, integral to which would be a strong audit environment. This function just seems to be a part of that environment.

In my organisation, being part of an internal audit investigation is certainly unpleasant, but frankly the threat of IA is usually enough to dissuade most wrong-doers. At the end of it, by working for a company you are being paid to deliver stakeholder value. By leaking highly valuable information, you strike at the core of that relationship.

By aqwan135 on 12/20/2009 8:14:10 PM , Rating: 1

fr ee sh i pp ing

(jordan shoes) $32

(air max) $34



Apples new Moto
By krichmond on 12/16/2009 7:50:01 AM , Rating: 5
"Heil Apfel"
"der Fuehrer Jobs"

RE: Apples new Moto
By FITCamaro on 12/16/2009 8:01:15 AM , Rating: 3
No surprise here really.

RE: Apples new Moto
By inperfectdarkness on 12/16/2009 3:42:29 PM , Rating: 2
actually, i draw more similarities between kim jong il and steve jobs.

they both sit at the helms of massively large personility cults.

RE: Apples new Moto
By Alexvrb on 12/16/2009 10:27:46 PM , Rating: 2
Nah, the whole thing reeks more of Scientology's practices. Though, that is also a cult...

A hypothetical scenario at Apple...
By blueeyesm on 12/16/2009 11:01:26 AM , Rating: 5
Wednesday afternoon, Apple Headquarters, HR Dept. Three men in suits call in an employee.

Apple employee: Hi, what's up?

Loyalty Team member Smith: Please sit down.

Apple Employee: Why was I called here? Am I in trouble?

Loyalty Team member Smith: It seems that you've been living two lives. One life, you're <employee name>, program writer for a respectable software company. You have a social security number, pay your taxes, and you... help your landlady carry out her garbage. The other life is lived in computers, where you go by the hacker alias "Appleleaker" and are guilty of leaking every computer secret we have. One of these lives has a future here, and one of them does not.

Apple employee: What?! No! I just work here under contract!

Loyalty Team member Smith: We're willing to wipe the slate clean, give you a fresh start. All that we're asking in return is your cooperation in bringing this known leaker to justice.

Apple Employee: I don't know what you are talking about!

Loyalty Team member Brown: Perhaps we are asking the wrong questions.

Loyalty Team member Smith: I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your employment and I realized that you're not actually a full-time employee. Every full-time employee in this company instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you contractees do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every company secret is leaked and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area within the company. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Leakers are a disease, a cancer of this company. You're a plague and the Loyalty Team is the cure.

Apple Employee: No wait, please! I won't talk online about anything ever again! Just don't fire me!

Apple Employee runs out.

Loyalty Team member Brown: She got out.
Loyalty Team member Smith: Doesn't matter.
Loyalty Team member Brown: The informant is real.
Loyalty Team member Smith: Yes.
Loyalty Team member Jones: We have the name of their next target.


By inperfectdarkness on 12/16/2009 3:48:24 PM , Rating: 2
+ eleventy billion

Old methods are the best
By corduroygt on 12/16/2009 8:15:31 AM , Rating: 2
They can never catch you if you don't write anything down, and at the end of the day, after leaving work, provide the information to your trusted liasion on your own phone/computer, or better, in person.

RE: Old methods are the best
By rcc on 12/16/2009 5:47:45 PM , Rating: 2
yes, that way you can be an uncaught lying, thieving scumbag.

RE: Old methods are the best
By corduroygt on 12/18/2009 1:40:41 PM , Rating: 2
Even better, since it would be helpful if I want to get into politics in the future.

So what you're saying is...
By rs1 on 12/16/2009 12:51:10 PM , Rating: 4
Apple = Third Reich
"Worldwide Loyalty Team" = SS
Employees = Jews
Management = Nazi Officers
Steve Jobs = Hitler


Google in 2035
By Slyne on 12/16/2009 3:41:21 PM , Rating: 2
How much of this article is true is irrelevant to my point, following: we can all agree that Apple in 2009 is not the same Apple of 1984. Right now, Google is all about collecting, and sometimes reconstructing through inference, our personal data; and it's fine, because of their "do no evil" motto. Will it still be theirs, come 2035?

I'm not a Google basher, I use google and gmail, but I also use the CustomizeGoogle add-on because of that concern (*), and not because I'm doing something I shouldn't, as Schmidt might put it.

*: I perform my searches logged-out, before anyone points out how useless CustomizeGoogle would be for that purpose when logged-in

RE: Google in 2035
By bigdawg1988 on 12/16/2009 6:16:56 PM , Rating: 2
So Google will be the anti-christ? Nice.
Actually there must be some research into organizations and how even the most innocent organization will eventually become corrupt. Sure they say do no harm now, but eventually more and more of the sociopaths take over and slowly all that data they collects gets used for more and more evil purposes. Next thing you now we're all batteries.

It is my belief that sociopaths are at the heart of the corruption in the world. Eventually Google will fall prey as there is too much money (and power) involved.

I feel dirty.
By Misty Dingos on 12/16/2009 8:00:00 AM , Rating: 3
I love my iPhone but now I feel like I am supporting some despot from a book like 1984.

By Zensen on 12/16/2009 9:55:22 AM , Rating: 3
You Will Be Assimilated ... We are APPLE. You Must Comply. Resistance is Futile

Yeah I can't wait...
By Pneumothorax on 12/16/2009 10:01:24 AM , Rating: 2
for the Apple Concentration Camps to show up. You know, "Re-education" for the pc folk.

RE: Yeah I can't wait...
By Legolias24 on 12/16/2009 10:34:28 AM , Rating: 1
I guess I better start drawing up my escape plans for "Tom, Dick & Harry" then! :P

Lesson from history
By fstarnella on 12/16/2009 8:16:30 AM , Rating: 2
The German government had a worldwide loyalty team back in the 1930's. It was quite effective for them.

well that settles it
By muhahaaha on 12/16/2009 2:12:59 PM , Rating: 2
I never really was interested in buying any flashy Apple gizmos, but after reading this article, it'll be a cold day in hell before I condone their behavior by giving them any of my hard earned cash.

New form of security for Apple.
By erikstarcher on 12/16/2009 2:25:20 PM , Rating: 2
The GestAPPLE will come for you!

Big Brother knows best.
By pjs on 12/16/2009 4:20:51 PM , Rating: 2
Their Goose-stepping security nazis further prove that Apple is big-brother and can not be trusted. I will never purchase an Apple product or service.

Incorrect info
By PandaBear on 12/16/2009 4:50:20 PM , Rating: 2
As employees are only allowed to have company-granted phones on site, its easy for the agents to analyze the employees' phone history for hints of leaking activity.

One of my family members work for Apple on site and he uses his own Nokia flip phone, no problem at all.

Apple do have discount for employee if they use their own rate plan, but it is not forcing employees to use only their own phone.

This article is a LIE
By hiscross on 12/16/09, Rating: -1
RE: This article is a LIE
By Boze on 12/16/2009 2:28:27 PM , Rating: 2
I think we need to link this guy to the Stockholm Syndrome article about the Apple iPhone... he apparently is suffering from it in regards to the entire company.

RE: This article is a LIE
By hiscross on 12/16/2009 2:58:59 PM , Rating: 2
If you believe Global Warming is true, then explain to me how come it is cold today?

RE: This article is a LIE
By erikstarcher on 12/16/2009 2:43:05 PM , Rating: 2
Why don't you just stop visiting this site if you don't like it?

RE: This article is a LIE
By hiscross on 12/16/09, Rating: 0
"find" not "fine"
By riottime on 12/16/09, Rating: -1
RE: "find" not "fine"
By IdBuRnS on 12/16/09, Rating: -1
RE: "find" not "fine"
By T2k on 12/16/2009 10:28:04 AM , Rating: 3
Seriously... Lack of proof-reading, lazy "journalism" at it's worst.

Lovely, just lovely...

...HINT: i ts

RE: "find" not "fine"
By sxr7171 on 12/16/2009 10:39:26 AM , Rating: 2
If this was posted from an iPhone touch screen keyboard then it is all excusable!

But isn't there some kind of Bluetooth keyboard you can use?

RE: "find" not "fine"
By Hieyeck on 12/16/2009 11:32:48 AM , Rating: 2
The "Loyalty Team" agents then proceed to search employees' belongings and confiscate there phones,


RE: "find" not "fine"
By chdude3 on 12/16/2009 10:20:43 AM , Rating: 1
Do you guys even have an editor?
I'm guessing not, since the editor should also have noticed "confiscate there phones". Why is it that whenever one of these blog posts seems to be rife with errors, it's always the same friggin' toolbox who wrote it?

RE: "find" not "fine"
By xSauronx on 12/16/2009 12:10:53 PM , Rating: 4
NOBODY expect the Apple Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise, fear and surprise our TWO weapons are fear and surprise and an almost fanatical devotion to Steve Jobs--Our three...our three weapons are fear, surprise...

RE: "find" not "fine"
By Alexvrb on 12/16/2009 10:31:23 PM , Rating: 2
Poke him with the soft pillow!

"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad

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