A secretive culture – bordering on paranoia – was first fostered by Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, and then by his successor Tim Cook, who took over in 2011.
Apple employees typically sign several non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) per year, use codenames to refer to projects, and are locked out of meetings if they fail to obtain the appropriate documentation, former workers told us.
“Secrecy is everything at Apple,” one ex staffer said. “Many employees don’t like Apple Park [the company’s new headquarters] because it has very few private offices. Confidentiality on projects and the ability to step behind a closed door is vital.”
Another recent ex-employee said that security was weaponised across the company, with internal blogs boasting about the number of employees caught leaking and NDAs required even for non-sensitive or mundane projects. The employee described how they were once asked to read a negative story about the company and then identify the Apple insider suspected of leaking information.
This is the first part of a story that looks at Apple “as if it is (sic) a country.” An interesting approach, given the size of these big companies. Apple’s market valuation “is roughly equal to the national net worth of Denmark, the 28th wealthiest country in the world.” I’m not sure what that means; it’s not like Apple’s market valuation is a fixed asset, it is subject to the whims of the stock market. However, I do agree that “It has as many users as China has citizens. Its leader has a close relationship with the US president and other heads of state. In all but name, this is a superpower, wielding profound influence over our lives, our politics and our culture.”
I have mixed thoughts about Apple. On the one hand, I make my living writing about the company, and Apple is most certainly the least bad of the big tech firms. However, I’ve long been irked by Apple’s tax avoidance, which, while technically legal under US law, deprives countries where Apple makes money of their share of taxes on products and services the company sells. And it’s skanky; they stash money in the Cayman Islands and other offshore locations.
As for the internal security, it’s important to understand how much trade secrets are worth. Apple may be a bit more obsessed with security, but I sign several NDAs with clients and vendors who show me products and software every year.
I do know, from contacts in the company, that there is severe compartmentalization, which prevents people from knowing much about what others are doing, and it does seem, especially with the latest operating system releases, that this has contributed to a number of serious bugs. But any company this size is going to suffer from a lack of communication; perhaps Apple has just gotten too big to be manageable.
The truth, however, is that it represents what Apple has become: a secret garden with tremendously high walls. Most people who try to peer over the edge are summarily pushed back. Apple is a part of the world but also apart from it. It is Maoism for individualists.
Yes, the company is a “secret garden.” So is Boeing. So is Ford. So is any big company where intellectual property is how they make their living. As for “Maoism for individualists,” I don’t even know what that means.
A lot of this article is true, and much of it is not surprising for a company the size of Apple. Some of the article is just a timeline of the company’s history, skewed toward the negative. I’ll be interested to see what’s next in the series, and more interested to see what this site has to say about other companies, such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon.