Some Apple Employees Say Company's Culture of Secrecy Makes Working From Home Challenging

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The process of tech companies sending thousands of employees home amid the coronavirus crisis has been messy, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. The shift has been tough on Apple especially, due to strict guidelines and secrecy around its products.


The report mentions that software developers who were sent home have been complaining of both slow download speeds and confusion about what work they are allowed to perform. Other employees have been unable to access key internal systems from home due to Apple's stringent security policies.

Many engineers have continued to work at Apple's headquarters to adhere to Apple's policy of forbidding any unreleased products to leave the campus. Some staff say that Apple has loosened restrictions, however. One Apple employee mentioned "it's all about lowering the density," thus highlighting the importance of social distancing amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Apple has taken several measures in response to the coronavirus. Just this week, it was announced that Apple would be temporarily closing all Apple Stores outside of China, committing $15 million to date for COVID-19 relief efforts, and encouraging corporate employees to work remotely if their job allows. It was also announced that WWDC this year will be an online event and Apple Card customers are able to enroll in a program that will allow them to skip March payment without interest.

Article Link: Some Apple Employees Say Company's Culture of Secrecy Makes Working From Home Challenging
 

Mr. Dee

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Dec 4, 2003
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From a software development side, this could be used as an opportunity to really make new versions of iOS and macOS much better. Would it be the end of the world even if Apple delayed new iPhones and iPads for a year? Sure, revenue would take a hit, but, the company is starving for cash.
 

mw360

macrumors 68000
Aug 15, 2010
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The report mentions that software developers who were sent home have been complaining of both slow download speeds and confusion about what work they are allowed to perform. Other employees have been unable to access key internal systems from home...
Welcome to 'working from home'. If it was that easy to do your job from home, some guy in India would be doing it.
 

Emanuel Rodriguez

macrumors 6502
Oct 17, 2018
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Were they all working on laptops rather than desktops? I would think using a VPN + screen sharing to connect to an on-campus work computer would address this, as long as proper safeguards were in place (e.g. not allowing downloads to the remote computer).
From a security standpoint, allowing that can be risky, because what one allows access to on a computer on the LAN, could be quite different from what one would allow access to remotely, especially considering the company we're all talking about here. The safest approach is to grant employees access to specific resources, by providing them with a specially configured work laptop.

I assume they're doing something along those lines. It would explain the issues they've been having.
 

Analog Kid

macrumors 603
Mar 4, 2003
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Reminds me a bit of the Poison Room where all the big secrets are kept in The Magicians... Take a potion, come on campus, learn what you need to, but don’t dally!

For people that work from a computer all day, where you work sounds irrelevant, but I think we’ll be finding all kinds of frictions introduced by decentralization. Probably manageable in the short term, but longer term we’ll find there’s a reason innovation happens fastest in the densest population centers.
 

Westside guy

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Oct 15, 2003
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From a security standpoint, allowing that can be risky, because what one allows access to on a computer on the LAN, could be quite different from what one would allow access to remotely, especially considering the company we're all talking about here. The safest approach is to grant employees access to specific resources, by providing them with a specially configured work laptop.

I assume they're doing something along those lines. It would explain the issues they've been having.
No, that's not how using screen sharing over a VPN works. Nothing is touching the home computer - you're basically just using it as a remote control for the on-campus computer. The only port which has to be open between the two is the UDP/TCP port(s) required for the VPN. All the work and LAN access would be happening on the apple campus, on the on-campus computer, on the on-campus disks. Apple might need to customize the screen sharing protocol to restrict certain things, such as not allowing the default dragging of items between the remote and local computer, and not allowing remote disk mounting or usb forwarding; but that should be straightforward.

One would hope that Apple is already only granting "employees access to specific resources", even on campus. That's standard best security practice.

You can argue "well they could take photos of their screen", but that hazard exists on campus too.
 
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ipedro

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Nov 30, 2004
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From a software development side, this could be used as an opportunity to really make new versions of iOS and macOS much better. Would it be the end of the world even if Apple delayed new iPhones and iPads for a year? Sure, revenue would take a hit, but, the company is starving for cash.
Didnt think it would be needed to state the obvious but the teams that work on iPhone and iPad hardware are not the same that work on iOS and macOS. At all. They’re different skills. The teams work in collaboration but halting hardware updates isn’t going to send hardware engineers over to software development.

That said, Apple has already been making changes that help take the pressure off the software teams by not expecting everything to be released with a single annual update. They’ve gotten off that strict annual release. Instead, Apple has been adding features in point updates every few months or so rather than all at once in September.

I think that this is the way to go. Announce an annual roadmap at WWDC with the foundations for the upcoming year's improvements released around the launch of new iPhones in September then add those features throughout the year.

There's no need to stop hardware updates in order to improve the quality of the operating systems.
 

nfl46

macrumors 604
Oct 5, 2008
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"So, bro, what are you working on? Oh, nothing, just iOS 14!" Lol. :goes to take pictures without friend consent to post it on Instagram:

I doubt Apple wants that to happen. I wouldn't be surprised if we got some more iOS 14 leaks in the next couple of weeks. 9to5Mac already took the code apart, lol.
 

falainber

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Mar 16, 2016
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This must suck for software developers at Apple in general. In my company (also Silicon Valley + many other locations world wide), I have to use company provisioned laptop/OS/VPN/software to connect to the company network. But once I do it, I can do everything I can do in the office. People have a benefit of working from home whenever they need to. I wonder if this restriction severely limits the pool of software developers willing to work for Apple.
 

s66

macrumors regular
Dec 12, 2016
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You can argue "well they could take photos of their screen", but that hazard exists on campus too.
Do you really think Apple's security staff would not know of that danger for their more sensitive stuff ?
They'll just outlaw bringing in or out anything that has storage or networking abilities. A few lockers and a security guard is the basic solution to that problem.

Even in less demanding environments, the display at home is still troublesome as now Apple doesn't know who's sitting behind the computer (they might use 2FA and know who opened the connection, but they might get up and somebody else might take their place), for all you know it's a big LAN party or the allowed computer itself is being remotely controlled by somebody at your competitor (or a hacker).
Even the lack of social control not to start to film your screen isn't there anymore.
 

ipponrg

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Oct 15, 2008
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This must suck for software developers at Apple in general. In my company (also Silicon Valley + many other locations world wide), I have to use company provisioned laptop/OS/VPN/software to connect to the company network. But once I do it, I can do everything I can do in the office. People have a benefit of working from home whenever they need to. I wonder if this restriction severely limits the pool of software developers willing to work for Apple.
My company also is the same as yours where we have a provisioned laptop with VPN software and system scanners which allow us to work from almost anywhere. I can pretty much do everything except work with devices that had to be provisioned from the work building itself. In those cases, I do need to be in the office.

I don't think this really limits the pool of software devs willing to work for Apple. As far as I know if you want to work on proprietary projects at Apple, you have to live near the bay. Most software devs I know of and fellow colleagues have no interest of going to Santa Clara / Bay Area ;)
 

JosephAW

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May 14, 2012
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Kids are spying on me thru the door and using their S20 100x zoom to post Instagram pics of my workflow.;)
 
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LizKat

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Welcome to 'working from home'. If it was that easy to do your job from home, some guy in India would be doing it.
Yep. That's what a guy around here used to say when talk turned to "portable" jobs that ended up offshored. He counted as a blessing his craft and specialty of building custom stone walls to separate backyards from livestock pastures, for hobby farmers who sometimes retire up here from Wall Street and need something to occupy their time but also be a tax writeoff.

The half-joking nightmare he usually mentioned was that some company would eventually start shipping "some assembly required" boxes of rocks from China to local Walmarts.
 

zappa2001

macrumors newbie
Sep 21, 2013
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Apple should rely on Vendors for work-from-home. It will be better for them in the long run. That’s too hard to pull people out of an office and give them a Mac at home to work.
 

cardfan

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Mar 23, 2012
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Working from home means productivity drops through roof. Plus you still have to pay the grunts. No thanks.
 

djgamble

macrumors 6502a
Oct 25, 2006
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And how is that even a story?
All companies are like that.
Yeah I'm a lawyer and my wife works in government. Both of us can work from home.

If lawyers and government employees with security clearances can work from home then I'm pretty sure Apple techies can. Unless... there's a hidden message about trust, professionalism and (more broadly) their systems lacking various capabilities.

Working from home means productivity drops through roof. Plus you still have to pay the grunts. No thanks.
Mmmeh... I doubt anybody would consider somebody in my position a 'grunt' and I bill clients in 6 minute blocks (with zero dips depending on where I'm working... the firm pockets a lot more of that than I do BTW - I pay for myself hundreds of times over). Fortunately I'm paid based on the work I do, not where I do it. I'm senior enough to be trusted to choose the most appropriate location for each day of work. Can't really say I agree that avoiding 2 hours of travel, being able to start earlier and being available to work for international clients at odd hours is a reduction in efficiency. TBH not having people chatting and gossiping around me increases efficiency without making me less available (e.g. if somebody calls, sends me a message or e-mails me I'll respond right away... if they schedule a coffee with me then it'll be on a day when I'm in the office).
 
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