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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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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

"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch

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