Second Apple employee accused of stealing self-driving auto tech

Mae Love
February 1, 2019

In July of a year ago, an ex-Apple engineer was charged with stealing secrets from the hush-hush self-driving auto technology project days before he quit to go to a Chinese startup.

US prosecutors have charged Apple hardware engineer Jizhong Chen with industrial espionage after files containing sensitive manuals, schematics and diagrams were discovered on his personal hard drive, NBC Bay Area reports. Sheesh, crime doesn't always pay.

Apple has recently scaled back the project, laying off or transferring 200 employees from the unit, according to a recent report from CNBC. Chen also worked directly on the project so was in a good position to nab some info. After an employee saw him taking photos in a sensitive work area, the company conducted an investigation that discovered thousands of sensitive documents on his personal computer, including roughly a hundred photos from inside an Apple building.

Chen was hired by Apple as a hardware developer engineer for its self-driving auto project in June 2018, but aroused suspicion after being seen taking photos.

Some of the photos were taken back in June of 2018, while others were taken as recently as December of previous year.

Apple is running one of the most secretive autonomy projects of any tech company.

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The FBI noted that Chen had been put on a performance improvement plan in December, which would suggest he wasn't too happy at the company and was potentially at risk of being fired.

One could postulate that a grumpy Chen might have pilfered Project Titan secrets and then shared them with another driverless auto maker, including one in China.

It comes amid growing tension between the USA and China over future technologies and an ongoing trade war.

Chen was arrested before a scheduled flight home to China, where he allegedly applied to work at a rival autonomous technology developer.

Chen and his lawyer haven't responded to the charges, but Apple affectivity towed its hard-line on secret leaking.

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