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Chinese Engineer Accused of Stealing Apple’s Self-Driving Car Secrets for Rival Company in China

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    The FBI charged a self-driving car engineer at Apple for allegedly stealing trade secrets for a rival company based in China.

    Jizhong Chen, who was hired in June 2018, is the second Chinese employee to face the same accusation in six months, according to NBC Bay Area.

    Xiaolang Zhang, another engineer, was arrested in July for allegedly trying to send stolen information to China-based XMotors.


    According to the FBI, another Apple employee reported Chen after seeing him take “wide angled photographs” of the so-called “Project Titan” on Jan. 11, thinking that it was “suspici‌ous.”

    Security employees then looked at Chen’s personal devices and discovered that he had backed-up his work computer onto a personal hard drive, CNBC reported.

    Apple Park, Cupertino, California. Image via Wikimedia Commons / Daniel L. Lu (CC BY-SA 4.0)

    Some 100 photos shot inside the building that housed Apple’s secretive self-car driving project were allegedly found on Chen’s personal devices.

    One photo, taken in June 2018, reportedly showed an assembly drawing of a wire harness for an autonomous vehicle.

    An external view of the Steve Jobs Theater in Apple Park. Image via Wikimedia Commons / Justin Ormont (CC BY 4.0)

    Chen is said to have signed a strict confidentiality oath at the time of his hiring.

    Aside from the photos, he allegedly kept more than 2,000 files that contained “confidential and proprietary Apple material, including manuals, schematics and diagrams.”

    In his defense, Chen argued that he had backed up his work as an “insurance policy” after being placed on a “Performance Improvement Plan” program in December 2018. However, Apple claimed that the confidential information were found ahead of his placement.

    Soon, the company learned that he had applied for two external jobs, one of which was at a rival company in China, according to CNN.


    View this post on Instagram


    Senior Tesla engineer Doug Field rejoins Apple to work on Project Titan.

    A post shared by Appleosophy (@appleosophy) on

    Chen later told Apple that he was planning to visit his ill father in China. However, he was arrested just before he could board his flight last week, Bloomberg reported.

    The employee, who has since been suspended without pay, was released on Jan. 25 after posting $500,000 in cash and property.


    View this post on Instagram


    Apple driverless car concept restructuring. Hit the link in the bio fore more details. #apple #applecar #cars #carsofinstagram

    A post shared by techfesto (@techfesto) on

    Chen’s case comes to light just after the U.S. charged Huawei for allegedly stealing trade secrets from T-Mobile.

    Feature Image via Flickr / iphonedigital (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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