Apple files lawsuit against former engineer for leaking details of projects he wanted to kill

What just happened? Apple is suing a former software engineer for leaking confidential information about projects to journalists and employees from other companies. The Cupertino worker was allegedly sharing the details so he could “kill” products and features with which he took issue, including the Apple Vision Pro and the Journal app.

According to Apple’s complaint (via MacRumors), Andrew Aude joined Apple in 2016 as an iOS engineer shortly after graduating college. He worked on optimizing battery performance, a role that made him “privy to information regarding dozens of Apple’s most sensitive projects.”

Apple’s lawsuit claims that Aude used his Apple-issued work iPhone to leak information about more than a half-dozen Apple products and policies over a five-year period. In addition to the Vision Pro and Journal app, he revealed product development policies, strategies for regulatory compliance, employee headcounts, and more.

According to the court filings, Aude shared over 1,400 messages on Signal with a Wall Street Journal reporter he’d saved under the name “Homeboy.” It’s alleged that he leaked details of Apple’s then-unreleased journaling app in April 2023. An article on the app was published by Aaron Tilley in the WSJ at that time.

Aude is also accused of sending over 10,000 messages to another journalist at The Information and even traveling “across the continent” to meet with her. Apple says the former engineer took screenshots of some of the conversations to preserve them for posterity.

Aude allegedly admitted that he leaked the information to try to kill the products and features with which he took issue. Apple claims the disclosures led to at least five news articles discussing the company’s confidential and proprietary information, thereby impeding its ability to “surprise and delight” the public with its latest products.

Apple alleges that Aude denied leaking the confidential information. It adds that during an interview in November 2023, he lied about having his work iPhone on him then went to the bathroom where he deleted “significant amounts of evidence” from the device, including the Signal app that he used to communicate with the journalists. Aude admitted to some wrongdoing in December 2023, but it was limited to the information he had not been able to destroy. Aude was fired three days later.

Apple says it is suing Aude to prevent him from leaking any more secrets. The company is demanding a jury trial, is seeking both compensatory and punitive damages, “restitution and/or disgorgement” of bonuses and stock options, and “An order directing Mr. Aude not to disclose Apple’s confidential and proprietary information to third parties without its written consent.”

This isn’t the first time Apple has sued a former employee for leaking confidential information. It launched a lawsuit in a 2021 against a former materials engineer and product design architect, accusing him of selling trade secrets to an unnamed media outlet. The case was settled in November 2022.

Masthead: Niels Epting

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