Apple iPhone Secrecy Criticized Following Foxconn Worker Suicide
A Foxconn worker who had been overseeing 16 prototypes of Apple's fourth-generation iPhone is reported to have killed himself after Foxconn security interrogated him over a missing mobile prototype. Apple is being criticized by some for its intense secrecy, which others call routine.
A worker at Foxconn, the Chinese company that makes Apple's iPhones, killed
himself after learning that he was suspected of leaking secrets regarding the
next generation of iPhone smartphones, Reuters reported on July 22.
The Nanfang Daily reports that Sun Danyong, a 25-year-old product manager, oversaw 16 prototypes of Apple's fourth-generation iPhone. When Sun realized one had gone missing, he "became frantic." When he couldn't find the prototype, Foxconn's security division reportedly sent personnel to Sun's apartment to look for the device.
Other sources quote the ND Daily as reporting that, unable to withstand "unbearable interrogation techniques," Sun jumped from his 12th-floor window.
"We are saddened by the tragic loss of a young employee and we are awaiting the results of the investigation into his death," Apple told CNet July 21. "We require that our suppliers treat all workers with dignity and respect."
According to Reuters, the incident has led to an investigation of Foxconn and provoked criticism of Apple's intensely secretive corporate culture.
Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, told eWEEK, however, "I think the connection between Apple and this guy's suicide is very tenuous, at best."
Gottheil continued, "It was quite possible that Apple was very stringent with Foxconn, and so Foxconn went over the top, knowing Apple would be very disturbed [if secrets were leaked]. But this is completely knowable stuff."
It's true that Apple tightly guards its intellectual property, Gottheil said. "But that doesn't mean it's more stringent than other companies-it just manages to keep a higher percentage of its information under wraps."
Intense secrecy, Gottheil added, "is absolutely routine. Whenever you have to let trade secrets out, you set firm rules about who has access to them."
According to Reuters, Foxconn released a statement in which it expressed condolences to Sun's family.
"The company has noticed there has been much detailed discussion on the Internet and welcomes public discussion on how to help Foxconn's management where it is lacking," the statement went on to say. "We will scrutinize those places ... and strengthen our assistance to young employees."