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Last month, Apple filed a lawsuit against Simon Lancaster, a former employee who allegedly used his senior position within the company to steal "sensitive trade secret information" that he then provided to a reporter.

project-x-feature-blue.jpg

Lancaster responded to the complaint this week in California court. In his formal answer, obtained by MacRumors, Lancaster denied that he abused his position and trust within the company, systematically disseminated Apple's trade secret information, or improperly used his seniority to gain access to internal meetings and documents.

Lancaster admitted that he did communicate with a tech reporter "regarding Apple products and workplace issues he considered to be of public concern," but he denied that he was a "source" for "unspecified" articles published by the reporter:
Lancaster admits that he communicated with a reporter covering technology issues regarding Apple products and workplace issues he considered to be of public concern – namely, alleged corruption within Apple's supply chain and among Apple's supply chain managers. Lancaster lacks sufficient knowledge or information to admit or deny the allegations contained in Paragraph 2 of the Complaint that he was a "source" for unspecified "articles" published by the reporter, and denies those allegations of Paragraph 2 on that basis.
In particular, Lancaster said that he exchanged direct messages with a reporter in November 2018, with communication continuing into 2019. Lancaster also revealed that he met "socially" with the reporter in person on or around September 3, 2019, including "for reasons that had nothing to do with Apple."

Lancaster confirmed that he attended a large company event at Apple's headquarters in October 2019, after receiving an email invitation from Apple to attend the meeting. During the event, Lancaster received a text message from a superior asking him to leave the event, at which point he immediately left, according to his answer. Apple alleged that this company event discussed "sensitive trade secret information," including "Project X."

Lancaster indicated that his final day of employment at Apple was November 1, 2019, and that late in the evening on that day, he logged on to Apple's system to "send farewell emails to his colleagues." Lancaster denied that he downloaded confidential information to assist his new employer, as alleged in Apple's complaint.
Lancaster admits that after he resigned his employment with Apple, he began working at a company that served as a vendor for Apple. Lancaster denies that any conduct by him has created any harm or damage to Apple, and specifically denies that he ever used any Apple information either for the benefit of his new employer or in connection with his subsequent employment.
Lancaster admitted that, in October 2019, he proposed writing a story to the reporter about his departure from Apple. He also revealed that he continued to communicate with the reporter regarding Apple products after he announced his resignation.

In his answer, Lancaster goes on to admit that he requested that the reporter publish stories favorable to a startup in which he had invested, but denied that such requests were in exchange for any information discussed with the reporter or had any relationship to Apple confidential information.

Lancaster ultimately denied many of Apple's allegations "on the ground that he lacks sufficient knowledge or information to admit or deny them and/or on the ground that they state legal conclusions to which no response is required."

We've embedded Lancaster's full answer below with more details. As with Apple's original complaint, it's a fascinating read that provides a closer look at Apple's culture of secrecy and the efforts that the company takes to protect its intellectual property.



Article Link: Former Apple Employee Responds to Lawsuit Accusing Him of Leaking Trade Secrets to Media
 
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Morgenland

macrumors 65816
May 28, 2009
1,166
1,225
Europe
B-movie

The world admires Apple for developing the iPhone for years without anyone outside knowing.

If you invest a lot of money in your R&D, you have to protect it against Chatties. If the courts do not follow this idea, it would be a sellout of American research.

And before Apple takes an employee to court, Apple will be 100% sure that it is a traitor (DL logs). The court verdict will show us whether Apple is right in its assumption.
 
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Unregistered 4U

macrumors 601
Jul 22, 2002
4,153
2,787
Know something I’ve never done while working with a company with valuable Intellectual Property? Direct messaged a reporter. Know something I’ve never done while working with companies that don’t have valuable Intellectual Property? Met socially with a reporter in person.

I know sometimes it’s hard, because it seems like you can’t even walk two feet from your front door without running into 15 or 20 reporters, they’re just SO plentiful. And with only around 5-6 billion folks in the world to direct message with and/or meet socially, it’s hard to find even ONE out of that number that’s not a reporter.

But, I assure you, it’s always better not to do those things. Primarily, because then you won’t have to explain why you were direct messaging and meeting socially with a reporter at any point in the future.
 

grahamwright1

macrumors regular
Feb 10, 2008
208
199
North of the Border
One mans data theft is another mans whistleblower. Hard to feel sympathetic for either party here.
A whistleblower is traditionally someone who is trying to expose a significant criminal act, or tradition of criminal acts that need to be exposed for the public benefit. How is exposing Apple's product development to a journalist meet either of the traditional definitions?
 

Fidgit

macrumors member
Mar 28, 2020
55
51
A whistleblower is traditionally someone who is trying to expose a significant criminal act, or tradition of criminal acts that need to be exposed for the public benefit. How is exposing Apple's product development to a journalist meet either of the traditional definitions?
i haven’t read the docs or even anything about this case before, but the legal definition of whistleblowing tends to be a bit broader than just criminal acts, primarily including issues relating to ethics. Again, I don’t know anything about this case but it says in the article this guy claims he was raising issues around Apple’s workplace practices, which would seem to fall into the ethical side of whistleblowing.
 

Rainshadow

macrumors 6502
Feb 16, 2017
359
814
How long until we discover he was romantically involved with this reporter?
That’s what I read. “Met Socially” seems to be a euphemism to me. And who else would you have those long conversations with who you know is a reporter? Just odd to me… but maybe not. I guess I just assumed. Doesn’t make it worse or better, just more believable to me.
 
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grahamwright1

macrumors regular
Feb 10, 2008
208
199
North of the Border
i haven’t read the docs or even anything about this case before, but the legal definition of whistleblowing tends to be a bit broader than just criminal acts, primarily including issues relating to ethics. Again, I don’t know anything about this case but it says in the article this guy claims he was raising issues around Apple’s workplace practices, which would seem to fall into the ethical side of whistleblowing.
I'm sure you are correct on the broader legal definition of a whistleblower, but it still seems a LONG stretch to make spilling company secrets to a reporter you have a social relationship with, while also looking for positive publicity for your new employer :)

I think any future employers interviewing him, or considering him for a position in their companies will be more than a little suspicious of his ethics and trustworthiness....
 

jz0309

Contributor
Sep 25, 2018
4,019
11,389
Temecula, CA
Poor guy, this just shows how Evil Apple is!
When you sign on with ANY high tech company you’re signing papers that you will not share proprietary information, not download any other than for the project you’re working on.
I am positive that there is a log of his activities, so let’s just see what that contains. IF he did download indeed, Apple does have the right to do what they did, if not, that will come out in court and will give the guy the opportunity to sue Apple.
 

btrach144

macrumors demi-god
Aug 28, 2015
2,312
5,397
Indiana
I work a large tech company and have access to sometimes confidential information. I’ve never been interested in sharing the information. Ever.

why risk a decent paying job for clout?

a question I have though is how did Apple pull all this information? Did they spy on him? Track/follow him to these in person meetings? Some pretty strong accusations.
 

jmgregory1

macrumors 68030
Seems like it’s going to be pretty easy for Apple to prove Lancaster was / is a bad actor here. One of the takeaways I get with this case is that Apple must be treating its employees pretty well to not have more situations like this arise.

Sure, Apple has strong protections in place that employees know will bite them in the backside should they think about sharing info, but the culture there is clearly one that the majority of people are protecting the work they’re doing.

Even some of the leaks we hear about - they’re typically hitting very close to when products launch or are announced, but you know that product development is running 2-5 years out, so they’re doing a great job controlling their secrets. I can only imagine just how crazy some of the products are that are part of their long-term development.
 
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Glideslope

macrumors 604
Dec 7, 2007
7,064
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The Adirondacks.
"Lancaster ultimately denied many of Apple's allegations "on the ground that he lacks sufficient knowledge or information to admit or deny them and/or on the ground that they state legal conclusions to which no response is required."

Get the Orange Jumpsuit ready. Time for an order of "Lancaster on Toast." ;)
 

cmaier

Suspended
Jul 25, 2007
24,384
30,983
California
I work a large tech company and have access to sometimes confidential information. I’ve never been interested in sharing the information. Ever.

why risk a decent paying job for clout?

a question I have though is how did Apple pull all this information? Did they spy on him? Track/follow him to these in person meetings? Some pretty strong accusations.

Sounds like they did some digital forensics after he left.
 
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ArtOfWarfare

macrumors G3
Nov 26, 2007
9,316
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I think it's quite likely that Apple is bluffing and has no good evidence.

People dramatically overestimate Apple's security capabilities, despite evidence that shows Apple is actually quite poor at this. The only product from Apple that wasn't leaked in the past 30 years was the original iPhone. The only reason Apple managed to keep it wrapped was because they opted to reveal it publicly 6 months before it was released, IE, before more than ~10 people had seen a fully assembled prototype.

Then there's the fact that Apple appears to have virtually no quality control with the software they release. Note the constant flow of bug fixes, despite months of public beta testing. Note that regressions seem to be a common occurrence in Apple's software.

Apple doesn't have automated testing and they don't do security scans. They don't have a company culture that supports such precautions. That expands out to this case - I don't think they have any good evidence. I think Apple wants to scare their employees into compliance by making a big deal about this guy. It's all theater and they'll settle quietly to avoid stories about how it turned out that Apple was actually full of crap here.
 
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