By now, many will have read about how Apple fired an engineer who worked on the iPhone X after his daughter posted a video review of the phone after other reviews were already online. Was this a draconian and overbearing act by a company who isn’t afraid to call the lawyers out over product leaks? Or was Apple reasonable in firing an employee whose daughter posted a video?
The case against Apple
It’s fair to say Apple isn’t afraid of calling in the lawyers. Remember the lost and found iPhone 4 in 2010? And its ongoing legal shenanigans with Samsung and others are well documented.
Brooke Peterson, whose father, Ken Bauer, worked on the iPhone X, posted a view of the new phone, one issued to her father, as part of a shopping outing with her family. About three minutes into a video that went viral and will not be troubling the scorers at this next Academy Awards, Ms Peterson has a bit of a play with her dad’s iPhone X at Apple’s offices. You can watch the entire video here but I suggest scrolling straight to the two minute mark unless teenagers on shopping trips with their Mum is your kind of thing.
Dad gets in on the act as well, showing off a couple of features before the scene moves on.
From what I can see, nothing special is revealed in the video. By the time the video was released, the iPhone X was well known, other reviews were published and other than finding out where Ashton Kutcher sat during the filming of Jobs, nothing of note was revealed.
In other words, it looks like a heavy-handed corporate behemoth squashing the enthusiasm of a proud dad showing his daughter what he did at work.
The case for Apple
Employee smartphone carry lots of private information. And that’s part of what a report at The Verge argues. They say the notes app shown on the video shows the names of code names for unreleased Apple products and special employee-only QR codes.
The video was also shot at Apple’s campus at 1 Infinite Loop. Filming on the Apple campus without permission is prohibited.
I paused the video where the Notes app is open but the resolution of the video isn’t sufficient for me to read the content — if there were QR codes shown, I couldn’t spot them.
While the potential exists for private data to have been revealed, it doesn’t seem that has been the case. But the fact remains Mr Bauer did let his daughter film on the Apple campus. And it seems the video may have been shot before the iPhone X was released.
Is this fair?
Apple takes privacy and product leaks very seriously. And even though they seem to be more like a colander than steel trap in the post-Jobs era, they do try to keep new products under wraps for as long as possible.
While Ms Peterson did not, I think, accidentally reveal any corporate secrets, her father was complicit in allowing her to break a company rule about filming on the premises. In Australia, I suspect that unless there were some very specific words in your contract, that being summarily dismissed for what looks like a minor offence would simply not happen. Particularly as the “injury” to Apple is either non-existent or trivial.
Unless that blurry Notes screen did contain some corporate secrets.
According to a follow up video posted by Ms Peterson, “I’m not mad at Apple. My dad takes absolutely full responsibility for the one rule that he broke. We’re not angry, we’re not bitter”.
So, we have an employee who has broken a company rule, or supported someone else in breaking the rule, and lost their job.
As harsh as it seems, if Mr Bauer knew the rules then Apple’s actions – as harsh as they are – are reasonable. But it does little to soften the company’s hard-line reputation.