Project Titan has been a subject of speculation since it launched in It was initially believed to be working on an electric car, but executive hires in pointed toward autonomous driving. It has recently undergone some major reshuffling as Apple laid off employees tied to the project earlier this month. He aroused suspicion when fellow employees saw him taking photos. Apple then asked to look at his personal devices and found "over two thousand files containing confidential and proprietary Apple material, including manuals, schematics and diagrams," backed up on a personal hard drive in violation of Apple's policies, the affidavit said, according to CNBC.
According to CNBC, the affidavit said Chen said the images were an "insurance policy" because he was applying to other jobs after being placed on an Apple performance-improvement plan in December, but Apple found he had collected information before then. Read more: Apple's secret car project is much bigger than people think.
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Of course it had to cut jobs. Chen told Apple he was applying for positions inside the company, but it learned he'd also applied to two outside jobs, including one with a direct competitor in autonomous driving in China, and it suspended him without pay on January 11, the affidavit said, according to CNBC. Chen is the second Chinese Apple employee to be charged with stealing trade secrets in the past six months. In July, federal agents stopped a former Apple employee named Xiaolang Zhang at the San Jose airport after he bought what authorities described as a last-minute ticket to China.
His indictment alleged he had a confidential page document with schematic drawings of a circuit board for an autonomous vehicle. Zhang is also being represented by Olmos, who said he had pleaded not guilty to theft of trade secrets, The Journal reported. The arrests come against the backdrop of the trade war between the US and China, and charges brought by the US against Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications firm. World globe An icon of the world globe, indicating different international options.
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Apple CEO: Privacy is fundamental human right. Chen was arrested and charged last week, just before he was scheduled to fly to China, according to a criminal complaint filed in US district court in California. Apple said that if the confidential material got out, it would be "enormously damaging" for the company, the complaint said.
January 12222 Issue
It's the second time in about six months that a Chinese national has been charged with stealing secrets from the Apple project, whose existence the company refuses to even acknowledge publicly. The cases come during heightened tensions between the United States and China over who will control the technologies of the future.
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This week, the US Justice Department filed sweeping charges against Chinese tech company Huawei , accusing it of trade theft, obstruction of justice and other crimes.