Apple's secret society

Apple's secret society

Summary: It's well known that Apple is one of the most secretive companies in silicon valley, if not the world but at what point does that secrecy adversly affect products, or worse, become illegal?Like most technology companies Apple requires all employees (and contractors) to sign strict non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements that are part of a larger employment contract.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Apple
39

[Steve Jobs]It's well known that Apple is one of the most secretive companies in silicon valley, if not the world but at what point does that secrecy adversly affect products, or worse, become illegal?

Like most technology companies Apple requires all employees (and contractors) to sign strict non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements that are part of a larger employment contract.

Apple specifically forbids employees from talking about unannounced products. Violation is grounds for dismissal and Apple has been known to take legal action personally against the offending employee. Apple closely monitors all communication on its corporate network and routinely plants false information with employees in an effort to track leaks.

Talking to the press is also off limits. Employees are instructed to direct all questions from the media to their public relations department. Apple PR is a notoriously tight group that communicates to a tiny clique of only the safest, largest, mainstream media. If you're not Mossberg, Baig, or Pogue -- don't call us, we'll call you.

Apple has even gone so far as to train its legal attack dogs on the media. I'm intimately aware of Apple's paranoid level of security as my Web site -- O'Grady's PowerPage -- was one of the targets of an Apple legal probe in December 2004 (Apple v. Does). We prevailed in May 2006 when a California state appeals court ruled that the online journalists have the same right to protect the confidentiality of sources as traditional mainstream reporters do.

For obvious reasons no one will go on the record about it, but Apple strictly forbids any sort of personal blogging, tweeting or otherwise discussing anything that an employee or contractor is working on. All Apple product information has to be fully sanitized, blessed and released by www.apple.com/pr.

A New York Times piece Apple’s Obsession With Secrecy Grows Stronger turns the topic to the health of Apple's iconic CEO, Steve Jobs.

On that key issue, the experts are divided. Some believe Apple did not need to disclose Mr. Jobs’s liver transplant because Mr. Jobs was on a leave of absence and had passed responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the company to the chief operating officer, Timothy Cook.

Other governance experts argue that the liver transplant now makes one of Apple’s assertions from January — that Mr. Jobs was suffering only from a hormonal imbalance — seem like a deliberate mistruth, unless Mr. Jobs’s health condition suddenly deteriorated. Of course, no one knows enough to say definitively.

While I generally avoid reporting on issues involving Steve's health out of respect for his privacy, what obligation does Jobs have to share the details of his health with Apple's Board of Directors and shareholders?

Topic: Apple

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

39 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • If you place a million dollars bet on a horse,

    and then the horse loses because of some serious health conditions that the horse owner didn't tell you beforehand, how will you feel?

    To investors, more than $50 out of Apple $140 stock price is for Steve Jobs alone.

    Many investors did not really invest in Apple. They invested in Steve. For them, he leaving Apple is nothing less than a backrupt statement to both Apple, and themselves.



    Dealing
    • Anyone investing in Apple because of Steve Jobs...

      ...they're idiots.

      Steve Jobs is one man. A sales weasel. Admittedly an inspired, charismatic sales weasel, but a sales weasel none the less.

      Forget the cancer, the liver transplant, what happens should he get hit by the proverbial bus?

      If Apple's being carried on the back of one man it's not a company you should be investing in.

      Apple has always appealed to appearance tho. Maybe that's finally come back to bite them?
      wolf_z
      • I agree that they shouldn't...

        but to call Steve Jobs a sales weasel is pretty far off base. The guy made Apple what it is. He lead them to success TWICE. Without him they floundered terribly. He's extremely important to the company and anyone investing in Apple should be aware of that. The idea that many would pull out if he left or died is very accurate.
        LiquidLearner
      • Your right they shouldn't but there are people

        out there that will pee in their pants because he told them to.
        TheBottomLineIsAllThatMatters
    • Good/bad analogy

      That's the gamble you take when you "invest" in company stock. I'm
      heavily involved with a UK charity that lost millions in the 2008 crash,
      all of it invested in private equity funds. Just like there is no sure thing
      in horse racing - or any form of gambling for that matter - there is no
      sure thing in stocks, anyone telling you different is selling you snake oil.
      Investing is essentially gambling...
      SimonUK
  • Journalists' intrusive bad taste

    What conclusions can we draw from the fact that a cancer patient undergoes a liver transplant? Does one have to be a brain surgeon to know he is going to die soon? I don't think so.

    "the sickest patient on the waiting list"
    Very soon, or ...

    "We provide transplants to patients regardless of race, sex, age, financial status, or place of residence."
    ... please don't insult my intelligence. How about some facts on waiting lists and donor availability in the USA? A regression analysis of waiting time versus wealth? Ah, top secret again, no doubt.

    The continued coverage of this story is in bad taste. Please stop or you will 'have done it to death'.

    Get back to your hackintoshing.
    jacksonjohn
    • I think people......

      have the right to know if he was bumped ahead on a waiting list just because he has money or if he legitimately waited his turn.
      Erroneous
      • Tin hat conspiracy theories confer no "rights"

        But FYI, the hospital said he was properly evaluated IAW all the relevant transplant policies and had the highest MELD score for patients with his condition, and that put him at the head of the line for the transplant. Now, one may wonder if Jobs shopped around for an hospital -- why'd he go to Tennessee? -- but anybody can do that.

        http://methodisthealth.org/methodist/About+Us/Newsroom/News/Steve+Jobs+Receives+Liver+Transplant

        Vesicant
        • Anyone?

          Only if they have money and the freedom/health to relocate. Most transplant candidates do NOT have those.

          Around the same time Natalie Cole got her fast-track kidney transplant, a friend of mine died because he didn't have the money they make people come up with before they can be considered.

          As for shopping around, there was an attempt in the late 1990s to make that illegal because the well-heeled WERE getting bumped to the head of the line by being on multiple transplant centers' lists. It was killed by the (Rs) and the lobby for the OPOs.

          Should there have been something more put about Jobs and his real condition? I think that, because he IS so entwined with the Apple "mystic", it would have been a good idea to say something more than "hormone imbalance".
          AttackComputerWhiz
        • Not anybody.

          I don't most Americans can just jump on a plane and fly to any state to get an transplant. Also the transplant isn't cheap so what I see this that "rich" or "famous" has more privileges than the rest of us.
          phatkat
      • Late to the "party"...

        Health care in the US is run as a private enterprise, and as such
        [i]nobody[/i] has a right to know the circumstances of Steve Jobs'
        transplant as it was undertaken by two private entities. Above that - he
        is protected by the Hippocratic oath that his surgeon took.
        SimonUK
    • They do not give livers, or other healthy organs

      to a person who has one removed due to cancer, so chances are his cancer has not returned.

      They will give one to a cancer survivor who has shown no signs of the cancer returning after a certain amount of time, if an organ has been damaged due to chemotheropy or disease.

      He has a tough road ahead of him, with anti-rejection drugs and diminished immune system due to those drugs, but it does not definativelly indicate that he will be leaving this world anytime soon.
      GuidingLight
    • Since liver transplants can use live donors

      what was your point, exactly?
      frgough
      • Not exactlly true

        [i]Since liver transplants can use live donors[/i]

        You're thinking of kidneys. a liver transplant usually involves replacing the entire liver, something no animal can survive without.

        Living donor transplants are more compliacted, and done only as a last resort, and allways from a family member, and rare.

        The fact that the article states he was moved to the top of the list of receipients would say that this was most likely a kidney from a deceased person, not a planned operation.
        John Zern
        • While this most likely was...

          a complete transplant, his point is correct; liver transplants [i]can[/i[ use
          live donors.

          [u]http://www.mayoclinic.org/liver-
          transplant/livingdonorlivertransplant.html[/u]
          msalzberg
        • Nope, I'm right

          The liver is the only organ in the human body that can regenerate. As
          long as the portion you take has all the necessary components, it will
          grow into a completely new liver in the recipient's body.

          A live donor liver transplant works by removing a portion of the donor's
          liver and placing it in the recipient. After about 6 weeks, both have
          complete livers.

          In my nephew's case, a close friend of his father was undergoing the final
          matching tests when an organ became available and that one was used
          instead.
          frgough
  • Perhaps they have much to hide...

    ...like for years, they let their consumers' imaginations run wild, by letting them erroneously believe that APPLE itself actually manufactures things, rather than just a company that "Jobs" all the actual product work out, to hungry $1/day Chinamen.
    Feldwebel Wolfenstool
  • RE: Apple's secret society

    I think it's great that a person of such Prominence was able
    to travel cross country be admitted to hospital over two
    months ago and we are just finding out. Like all stock I
    purchase it's the potential of the company to make
    advances under the leadership of a competent executive
    team. If I want to invest in a company controlled by a
    single person I invest in Joe Blow Plumbing down the
    street. IMHO secrecy is important at Apple to protect
    executive stock compensation which is a significant part of
    their compensation package so why let some fanatical
    reporter with an Apple Ax to grind destroy the gains the
    company has made by producing some of the leading
    technology of this century. With all the CRAP Microsoft
    puts out, the missed schedules, Beta releases as Gold
    Masters, misstated sales numbers and copycat attempts
    Wall Street still has it held as a buy position by 23 analysts
    (13 of those are strong Buy positions). I think those same
    analysts are speculating on property in New Orleans.
    So bottom line is, leave the man alone and buy and enjoy
    the companies products and tell your friends so they buy
    and enjoy along with you.
    kennmsr
  • RE: Apple's secret society

    > what obligation does Jobs have to share the details of his health with Apple?s Board of Directors and shareholders

    Cutting through the oh-so-typical, non-relevant Apple vs. MS crud posted here so far: Clearly, Regulation FD requires that when Jobs disclosed his condition to Apple, that information should also have been made generally public. However, the SEC doesn't currently consider CEO health as a material fact, so Jobs had no legal duty to disclose his condition.

    http://www.sec.gov/rules/final/33-7881.htm
    http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/548210/
    Vesicant
  • This is getting out of control

    Apple disclosed that Jobs was on medical leave. This is the equivalent of hanging a neon sign over Jobs' head that says "ALMOST DEAD". Do you really think he went on medical leave to recoup from a hangover? Are people really that naive?
    Michael Kelly