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Apple Sues Former Employee for Leaking iPhone’s Journal App and More

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Apple this month sued its former employee Andrew Aude in California state court, alleging that he breached the company’s confidentiality agreement and violated labor laws by leaking sensitive information to the media and employees at other tech companies. Apple has demanded a jury trial, and it is seeking damages in excess of $25,000.


Aude joined Apple as an iOS software engineer in 2016, shortly after graduating college. He worked on optimizing battery performance, making him “privy to information regarding dozens of Apple’s most sensitive projects,” according to the complaint.

Leaks

The lawsuit alleges that over a five-year period, Aude used his Apple-issued work iPhone to leak information about more than a half-dozen Apple products and policies, including its then-unannounced Journal app and Vision Pro headset, product development policies, strategies for regulatory compliance, employee headcounts, and more.

In April 2023, for example, Apple alleges that Aude leaked a list of finalized features for the iPhone’s Journal app to a journalist at The Wall Street Journal on a phone call. That same month, The Wall Street Journal‘s Aaron Tilley published a report titled “Apple Plans iPhone Journaling App in Expansion of Health Initiatives.”

Using the encrypted messaging app Signal, Aude is said to have sent “over 1,400” messages to the same journalist, who Aude referred to as “Homeboy.” He is also accused of sending “over 10,000 text messages” to another journalist at the website The Information, and he allegedly traveled “across the continent” to meet with her.

HomeboyHomeboyA screenshot included in the lawsuit

Other leaks relate to the Vision Pro and other hardware:

As another example, an October 2020 screenshot on Mr. Aude’s Apple-issued work iPhone shows that he disclosed Apple’s development of products within the spatial computing space to a non-Apple employee. Mr. Aude made this disclosure even though Apple’s development efforts were confidential and not known to the public. Over the following months, Mr. Aude disclosed additional Apple confidential information—including information concerning unannounced products, and hardware information.

Apple believes that Aude’s actions were “extensive and purposeful,” with Aude allegedly admitting that he leaked information so he could “kill” products and features with which he took issue. The company alleges that his wrongful disclosures resulted in at least five news articles discussing the company’s confidential and proprietary information. Apple says these public revelations impeded its ability to “surprise and delight” with its latest products.

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Apple Finds Out

Apple said it learned of Aude’s wrongful disclosures in late 2023, and the company fired him for his alleged misconduct in December of that year.

In a November 2023 interview, Apple alleges that Aude denied leaking confidential information to anyone. However, during that interview, Apple alleges that Aude went to the bathroom and deleted “significant amounts of evidence” from his work iPhone, including the Signal app that he used to communicate with “Homeboy.”

During a follow-up interview in December 2023, Apple alleges that Aude admitted to some of his wrongful disclosures, but claims he only provided “narrow admissions limited to the information he had not been able to destroy.”

Apple attempted to resolve this matter out of court, but it said Aude was uncooperative:

Apple does not bring suit against its former employees lightly. As a result of Mr. Aude’s willful destruction of evidence, however, Apple cannot know the universe of what he disclosed to whom and when. Before filing this lawsuit, Apple reached out to Mr. Aude to potentially resolve this matter. Over a month ago, Apple contacted Mr. Aude to understand the full scope of his leaks and ask for his full cooperation in resolving this matter without litigation. Mr. Aude, however, did not commit to cooperating.

Aude has also allegedly refused to divest of the restricted Apple stock units that he received as part of his compensation package.

Apple said that Aude poses an “ongoing threat” to the company due to his “long and extensive history of disclosing it to third parties intentionally and without authorization, his continued relationships with individuals at other technology companies, and journalists, and his attempts to conceal his misconduct.”

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Apple is seeking both compensatory and punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial, and it is also seeking other legal remedies.

The full complaint can be viewed in this PDF file.



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