Project Titan is an effort still at Apple, even if it did just lose over 200 employees. As a result, secrets are still important.
Of course, trade secrets would still be important even if Apple does abandon Project Titan, its self-driving ambitions, altogether. The report comes from NBC South Bay, saying that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has accused an Apple employee, a citizen of China, of attempting to steal trade secrets.
The accused is Jizhong Chen, a native of China. The accusations date back to when Chen was hired by Apple last summer. Chen was brought on the team as a hardware developer. It turns out fellow employees saw Chen taking pictures of the workspace within Project Titan. Chen then admitted to the FBI that he had back up his work computer to a person hard drive, and, later, a separate personal computer.
After that, Apple discovered that Chen had applied for a job at an autonomous-based vehicle company based out of China. The goal would be to provide those Apple trade secrets to the other company.
“Chen, according to the complaint, allowed Apple Global Security employees to search his personal computer, where they found thousands of files containing Apple’s intellectual property, including manuals, schematics, and diagrams. Security personnel also found on the computer about a hundred photographs taken inside an Apple building.
Apple learned Chen recently applied for a job at a China-based autonomous vehicle company that is a direct competitor of Apple’s project, according to the complaint. A photo found on Chen’s computer, which Apple provided to the FBI, showed an assembly drawing of an Apple-designed wiring harness for an autonomous vehicle.”
Some of the photos were taken back in June of 2018, while others were taken as recently as December of last year.
Chen was scheduled to fly to China recently, but the FBI handled the arrest just one day prior. According to the indictment, Chen told Apple that he was going to visit his sick father. As a result of the allegations against Chen, he faces upwards of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of up to $250,000.
In an email to The Verge, Apple’s spokesperson, Tom Neumayr, said, “Apple takes confidentiality and the protection of our IP very seriously. We are working with authorities on this matter and are referring all questions to the FBI.”.
This is the second Apple employee to be charged in the theft of trade secrets specifically tied to Project Titan.