A former Apple employee has been charged with theft of trade secrets in the California federal court for allegedly downloading proprietary information related to the tech giant’s self-driving car plans just days before accepting a job with a Chinese self-driving car company. Xiaolang Zhang was attempting to fly to China on Saturday when he arrested by federal agents in the San Jose airport. He had been under investigation by Apple and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for allegedly downloading the schematics for a circuit board related to a self-driving car project.
Mr Zhang was hired in 2015 to work on Apple's self-driving car project designing and testing circuit boards that would analyse sensor data. In April of 2018, he took a period of family leave around the time of the birth of his son, during which he visited China. When he got back, he informed his boss that he was quitting Apple and going to China to work for an autonomous vehicle startup called XMotors. His supervisor reported suspicious behavior and an internal investigation ensued, and Mr Zhang was found to have taken documents from the company and stole a box of hardware that included circuit boards and a Linux server.
Mr Zhang has already confessed to the crimes, and Apple has brought criminal charges against him which could bring up to 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. He will now appear before a judge in Santa Clara County, California and Apple counsel is expected to ask for the maximum sentencing.