Chinese National Arrested for Stealing Apple's Trade Secrets

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According to the court document, Apple's security and employee relations staff initially conducted an investigation of Chen, after an unidentified Apple employee became suspicious of Chen upon spotting him taking wide-angle photos in a sensitive workspace in the building where the project was taking place.

Investigations by Apple revealed that Chen had applied to two jobs outside the iPhone giant, including one with a Chinese self-driving vehicle company. In that case, Zhang had just returned from a trip to China, and had promptly informed his boss at Apple that he was quitting and was going to work for Chinese electric auto company Xiaopeng Motors.

Apple has recently scaled back the project, laying off or transferring 200 employees from the unit, according to a recent report from CNBC. Zhang Xiaolang was involved in the development of Apple's smart vehicle project.

According to Federal Bureau of Investigation, the engineer has also acknowledged that he has backed up his Apple work computer to a personal hard drive, which is against the company's policy. A June 20 image found on Chen's personally owned computer showed "an Apple-designed wiring harness for an autonomous vehicle".

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Chen is the second Chinese national to be charged with stealing Apple trade secrets in recent months. According to CNBC, Chen told Apple he started backing up his work files on his personal computer as an "insurance policy", after he had been placed on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) in December 2018.

The complaint goes on to state Chen allowed Apple's Global Security team to search his personal computer, where Chen had stored thousands of files of Apple's intellectual property, including manuals, schematics, and diagrams. He had told Apple that he meant to visit his ill father.

Chen faces ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine if found guilty of stealing trade secrets. A few days later he was released after posting $500,000 bail.

"Apple takes confidentiality and the protection of our IP very seriously", the company said in a statement.

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