Adam Lashinsky had claimed in his book “Inside Apple” that the company makes fresh recruits work on “fake” projects to test their loyalty.
Even though Apple’s obsession with secrecy is well known, we found it a little extreme and unbelievable.
Here’s what Lashinsky said based on his discussions with Apple employees:
For new recruits, the secret keeping begins even before they learn which of these building they’ll be working in. Despite surviving multiple rounds of rigorous interviews, many employees are hired into so-called dummy positions, roles that aren’t explained in detail until after they join the company. The new hires have been welcomed but not yet indoctrinated and aren’t necessarily to be trusted with information as sensitive as their own mission. “They wouldn’t tell me what it was,” remembered a former engineer who had been a graduate student before joining Apple. “I knew it was related to the iPod, but not what the job was.” Others do know but won’t say, a realization that hits the newbies on their first day of work at new-employee orientation.
As we’d noted at that time, making employees work on fake projects sounded really unlikely, and a new report by Ars Technica suggests that such a practice has never been heard of by Apple employees, and might in fact not be true at all:
I spoke to Apple employees from various areas of the company at differing levels, some who are still at Apple and others who have moved on, but all expressed the same sentiment. No one reported any direct experience of being put on a fake project at Apple, and no one knew a friend or colleague at the company who had. A single former employee acknowledged having heard about fake projects—but only from a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend, and the employee was quick to acknowledge that the rumor should be treated with a skeptical eye.
Lashinsky himself spoke to Ars, clarifying that what he meant were dummy, placeholder projects whose details aren’t ready to be disclosed yet, rather than straight out fake ones.
As a part of its investigation, Ars also learnt about Apple’s highly strict security lockdowns when the company tries to zero-in on a leak:
A former employee familiar with Apple’s security procedures said he has personally witnessed “lockdowns” wherein a part of the floor or office is surrounded by security personnel—usually outside contractors with backgrounds in the military, CIA, or FBI.
Employees working within the lockdown area have to remain in their offices while security visits each desk in order to copy data from computers and other devices. The security team claims it can zero in on a leak almost instantly (though some investigations do take longer), and it may choose one individual to take away for further questioning.
It seems that a combination of NDAs and the security lockdowns like the ones described above are effective, since the major source of leaks these days is Apple’s Asian supply chain.