Former Apple engineer flees to China on suspicion of stealing self-driving car technology data

The U.S. Department of Justice has charged a former Apple software engineer with stealing or attempting to steal technology for at least four months before submitting his resignation to the company. The indictment alleges that Weibao Wang, 35, passed on Apple information to an unknown Chinese company that was working on self-driving cars.

Wang began working on Apple’s annotation team in 2016 and was given “broad access” to an internal database that only 2,700 of Apple’s 135,000 employees had access to, according to the indictment. . Mr. Wang worked for the company for one year before submitting his resignation in April 2018, but did not tell his boss about his future plans during his exit interview.

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However, a subsequent investigation revealed that Mr. Wang signed a letter of acceptance for a full-time staff engineer position with a China-based company in late November 2017, more than four months before submitting his notice. did. According to the indictment, a month after Mr. Wang left Apple, company representatives created a database containing confidential information about the company’s autonomous systems software that had been in use for several months before Mr. Wang left the company. It was discovered that the website was being accessed.

The indictment states that a search of Wang’s Mountain View, Calif., home uncovered “multiple personal devices containing large amounts of data obtained from Apple prior to his departure,” as well as “a personal desktop computer and a personal external hard drive.” “Each drive contained various confidential and proprietary materials,” he added. Project materials. ”

Read the indictment here:

When authorities raided Wang’s home, he claimed he had no plans to leave the country, but later that day it was discovered that he had purchased a one-way ticket from San Francisco International Airport to Guangzhou, China. It has been reported. According to the indictment, the plane departed that night around 11:55 p.m.

Wang is the third former Apple employee to be charged with stealing autonomous trade data and providing it to China, after Zhang Xiaolang was arrested last year as part of a plea deal for stealing trade secrets from Apple’s auto division. It follows that he ultimately pleaded guilty. Another former employee, Zijhong Chen, who worked as a hardware development engineer on Apple’s self-driving car project in 2018, is now facing federal charges for allegedly stealing classified information and providing it to China in 2019. are doing. Chen had previously pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Wang is responsible for stealing or attempting to steal Apple data, including the entire autonomous source code, traces of the autonomous system, operational plans for the autonomous system, hardware descriptions, architectural design, and operation of the autonomous system. He has been charged with six separate charges for allegedly committing a crime. Planner for autonomous systems. If extradited from China and convicted, Mr. Wang faces 10 years in prison for each charge.

Apple did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.

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