Former Apple employee pleads guilty to theft data from car department

A former Apple employee has pleaded guilty to stealing company data in a US federal court. That data would be about the secret car division of the company. The man faces 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Former Apple employee Xiaolang Zhang would according to American media have seized a 25-page internal document containing, among other things, technical diagrams of printed circuit boards that will be used in autonomous vehicles. The man is also said to have downloaded manuals and PDFs with information about Apple prototypes.

Zhang was arrested in 2018 at the airport of the American city of San Jose. He joined Apple in 2015 as a hardware engineer on the team responsible for developing autonomous vehicles. The man will find out his sentence in November. That sentence can be up to 10 years and a fine of $250,000. It’s not the first time a former Apple employee has been accused of stealing company data. In 2019 became accused another ex-Apple employee. This man also worked in the car division of the company.

According to NBC, documents from the US security service FBI from 2018 show that about 5,000 Apple employees were aware of the car project at the time; approximately 2,700 employees then had access to sensitive information such as databases. Apple also used software to track which employee has access to which project in the company, according to those documents. For some employees, Apple also reportedly organized a training program to ensure that trade secrets were kept indoors.

There have been rumors of a self-driving electric car from Apple for years. In 2017, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed that the company is working on autonomous systems that should enable self-driving cars. Cook did not give concrete details at the time.