Former Apple employee pleads not guilty to stealing self-driving car trade secrets

Posted:
in General Discussion edited July 16
Former Apple employee Xiaolang Zhang, who worked on the company's self-driving car initiative, on Monday entered a plea of not guilty after federal prosecutors indicted the engineer on one count of trade secret theft.




An indictment filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on July 12 allege Zhang stole a 25-page detailed schematic of a circuit board designed for use in an autonomous vehicle.

The former Apple engineer was initially appointed a public defender, but was represented by a personal lawyer at a hearing on Monday, Reuters reports.

Zhang's alleged indiscretions were detailed last week in a court filing from a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent.

The engineer was a member of Apple's "Project Titan" Compute Team, responsible for designing and testing circuit boards that analyze data from various vehicle sensors. As such parts are a critical component in an autonomous vehicle's infrastructure, Zhang was granted wide access to databases containing trade secrets and sensitive intellectual property.

Zhang made preparations to depart from Apple earlier this year while on paternity leave. During a meeting with management, Zhang said he intended to move to Guangzhou to tend to his ill mother and would take a position at Chinese electric car startup XMotors.

When the engineer handed over his company-issued laptop and iPhones, Apple's security team discovered unusual download activity that included access to confidential files. Security camera and security badge swipe data also placed Zhang in Apple labs during his leave, an action in violation of company policy.

When questioned, Zhang initially denied the allegations, but later admitted to taking two circuit boards and a linux server. He also admitted to AirDropping files from company computers to a personal laptop owned by his wife.

Zhang was arrested at the San Jose International Airport while attempting to board a flight to Beijing.

If found guilty, the former Apple engineer could face ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Zhang Indictment by Mikey Campbell on Scribd

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 41
    Didn't he steal a server?

    How in the hell could he claim he's not guilty of stealing trade secrets?
    jbdragonAvieshekwatto_cobraAlex1N
  • Reply 2 of 41
    nunzynunzy Posts: 660member
    This guy needs to be made an example of what happens to people who try to hurt Apple. I hope he is imprisoned. Or worse.
    Avieshek
  • Reply 3 of 41
    netroxnetrox Posts: 638member
    Didn't he steal a server?

    How in the hell could he claim he's not guilty of stealing trade secrets?
    It's a standard legal process to plead not guilty even if he's guilty. It's to help him get the best legal defense to determine what kind of bargain he can get if he pleads guilty. 


    paisleydiscochasmjbdragonAvieshekwatto_cobraking editor the grate
  • Reply 4 of 41
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,293member
    Do you suppose the Chinese government might now be paying for his “personal lawyer.” He had a public defender, now he has a paid lawyer. Hmmmm.
    Avieshekwatto_cobracornchipAlex1Njony0
  • Reply 5 of 41
    evilutionevilution Posts: 1,299member
    Chinese lead IP theft isn’t just in China.
    watto_cobraSpamSandwichAlex1N
  • Reply 6 of 41
    I'm glad I'm not going to jail...I'm not really built for jail. :)
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 41
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,174member
    If he said he didn't do it, then I believe him. If you asked him 3 times and he said he's innocent then he must be innocent by the laws of the current reality.
    edited July 17 Rayz2016chasmIreneWleavingthebiggfranklinjackconanantksundaramrevenantolsgutengelStrangeDays
  • Reply 8 of 41
    FatmanFatman Posts: 149member
    Hey Apple, here’s some advice ‘don’t hire someone named Zhang. The stereotype is all too often true. I work with Chinese companies, one that is ‘backed by the government’ they are ruthless and dishonest and don’t value contract agreements. They intercept data from competing firms, and always seem to know what prices you offer others. Their patent process is an absolute joke - you must assume your IP and processes will be stolen, just a matter of how long it takes them to offer a knock off. Sorry if I offend anyone - just the truth.
    Avieshekwatto_cobraravnorodomchristopher126gutengelSpamSandwich6502cornchip
  • Reply 9 of 41
    Fatman said:
    Hey Apple, here’s some advice ‘don’t hire someone named Zhang. The stereotype is all too often true. I work with Chinese companies, one that is ‘backed by the government’ they are ruthless and dishonest and don’t value contract agreements. They intercept data from competing firms, and always seem to know what prices you offer others. Their patent process is an absolute joke - you must assume your IP and processes will be stolen, just a matter of how long it takes them to offer a knock off. Sorry if I offend anyone - just the truth.
    They would tell you that you are cutting off a large portion of the employees and that it is profiling and racist, yada-yada...  /s
    Ultimately, it is Apple's decision if they wanna keep financing R&D that will later be handed over to some Chinese (cough) "start-up".
    jbdragonSpamSandwichcornchip
  • Reply 10 of 41
    Fatman said:
    Hey Apple, here’s some advice ‘don’t hire someone named Zhang. The stereotype is all too often true. I work with Chinese companies[…]

    There are currently more than 100 million people worldwide named Zhang.

    You have fifth generation Americans named Zhang; you have dissidents that would "disappear" if they ever went back to China, named Zhang; you probably could find a bunch of people of all kinds of ethnicities that due to marriage/adoption/whatever are named Zhang…

    Don't be a racist asshole when your thoughts just as easily could be expressed as "be careful about hiring people with still strong connections to China".

    Which, to be honest, is more or less a meaningless thing to say, because we already know that companies like Apple spend a lot of time and money vetting the people that they hire.
    edited July 17 dewmeanantksundaramStrangeDayscornchipmuthuk_vanalingamjony0
  • Reply 11 of 41
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 2,619member
    nunzy said:
    This guy needs to be made an example of what happens to people who try to hurt Apple. I hope he is imprisoned. Or worse.
    Or worse? LOL.

    Let's find him guilty first.

    Reminds me of one Speckled Jim, a general, a captain and one very strange trial.
    Aviesheknunzycornchipmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 12 of 41
    FatmanFatman Posts: 149member
    Google ‘J-20 jet’ look familiar? American taxpayers spent billions on that design. Or phone maker www.meizu.com website design, product imagery and names (plus, pro, s). 
    watto_cobraexceptionhandlerSpamSandwich
  • Reply 13 of 41
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,029member
    avon b7 said:
    nunzy said:
    This guy needs to be made an example of what happens to people who try to hurt Apple. I hope he is imprisoned. Or worse.
    Or worse? LOL.

    Let's find him guilty first.

    Reminds me of one Speckled Jim, a general, a captain and one very strange trial.

    You know, you're the only person taking him seriously, right?

    He's just doing a  'rabid Apple fan' parody.

    watto_cobraanantksundaramStrangeDaysnunzycornchip
  • Reply 14 of 41
    Fatman said:
    Google ‘J-20 jet’ look familiar? American taxpayers spent billions on that design. Or phone maker www.meizu.com website design, product imagery and names (plus, pro, s). 
    There are better and more clearcut examples of industrial espionage than those; but if you want to generalise from a few examples then no white man should be allowed to work as cops in the US (as they shot unarmed black people), and no man at all should be allowed to be unsupervised with other people as they are rapists and physically attack people.

    Generalisations usually stop being agreed with as soon as it goes from being about "them" to "me". So… you know… stop doing it.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 15 of 41
    Fatman said:
    Hey Apple, here’s some advice ‘don’t hire someone named Zhang. The stereotype is all too often true. I work with Chinese companies, one that is ‘backed by the government’ they are ruthless and dishonest and don’t value contract agreements. They intercept data from competing firms, and always seem to know what prices you offer others. Their patent process is an absolute joke - you must assume your IP and processes will be stolen, just a matter of how long it takes them to offer a knock off. Sorry if I offend anyone - just the truth.
    If Apple stopped working with Chinese people, your phone price would triple considering they're all made in China and plenty of parts are from Taiwan.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 16 of 41
    I was uncertain how the comments would proceed on this topic compared the first time. 

    Reading the ex-employee has a lawyer and is pleading not guilty made me pause to think about this strategy considering the man admitted stealing a server and downloading data to his wife’s computer. 

    I also wondered...

    - Who is financially backing the man to pay for the lawyer?
    - How much data was stolen and transferred to China before the man was caught?
    - What will happen if Apple loses this case?

    anton zuykovAlex1N
  • Reply 17 of 41
    I was uncertain how the comments would proceed on this topic compared the first time. 

    Reading the ex-employee has a lawyer and is pleading not guilty made me pause to think about this strategy considering the man admitted stealing a server and downloading data to his wife’s computer. 

    I also wondered...

    - Who is financially backing the man to pay for the lawyer?
    - How much data was stolen and transferred to China before the man was caught?
    - What will happen if Apple loses this case?

    Unless Apple's legal team consists of Hyper-chickens, (incompetent "lawyers" from Futurama), I doubt Apple is gonna lose this case. 
    Besides, Apple is unlikely to do anything, because it is FBI vs that gentleman, and not him vs Apple....
    As for FBI, I mean, they already have enough. The guy worked for Apple's electric vehicle R&D team, decides to jump the boat, and moved to another company that by random chance is a new start up, that is gonna design electric cars in China.
    In addition to that, there is material evidence the guy stole tens of gigabytes of Apple's R&D information, schematics and data from their DBs, on his last couple of days of employment, and while doing so, exceeded the amount of info he had been accessing for the last couple of months(!).... He also stole (stole, because Apple did not give permissions for removal) devices from Apple's lab to ...cough.... "read materials later". It is quite clear, what he was trying to do. He also knew that what he was doing was against company's policies, so it requires malice to do what he did. 
    Alex1N
  • Reply 18 of 41
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 2,619member
    Rayz2016 said:
    avon b7 said:
    nunzy said:
    This guy needs to be made an example of what happens to people who try to hurt Apple. I hope he is imprisoned. Or worse.
    Or worse? LOL.

    Let's find him guilty first.

    Reminds me of one Speckled Jim, a general, a captain and one very strange trial.

    You know, you're the only person taking him seriously, right?

    He's just doing a  'rabid Apple fan' parody.

    Yeah, you're right but that Blackadder episode just flashed into my head. I love the line when Melcher mentions 'the deceased'.
    nunzycornchipAlex1Nmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 19 of 41
    FatmanFatman Posts: 149member
    Question: If he successfully left the country would he be treated in China as a criminal or a hero?
  • Reply 20 of 41
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,514member
    I am more interested in that this tends to lend more credence to the potential that Apple have more up their sleeves in  this area of development that rumors mills and even Wall Street is aware of.
    cornchipAlex1N
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