Today in Apple history: iPad 2 leak lands insiders in prison

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The iPad Pro.
Leaking pre-release images could land you behind bars.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

June 15: Today in Apple history: iPad 2 leak lands insiders in prison June 15, 2011: Three people get sentenced to prison in China for leaking information about the iPad 2 prior to its release.

The Foxconn R&D employees receive sentences ranging from one year to 18 months. They also must pay fines between $4,500 and $23,000. If you ever wonder why more Apple products don’t leak prior to release, this might help explain why!

The three Foxconn employees got arrested the previous December. Authorities charged them with leaking the design of the iPad 2 to an accessory manufacturer prior to the device’s launch. The company used this information to begin cranking out iPad 2 cases early, giving it a head start on rivals.

The company that paid the leakers was Shenzhen MacTop Electronics, a maker of Apple-compatible accessories established in 2004. As revealed in the court case, Shenzhen MacTop offered the employees 20,000 yuan, or around $3,000, alongside discounts on MacTop products. In return for this, the employees gave them digital images of the iPad 2.

After their arrests, the employees faced charges of violating Foxconn’s and Apple’s trade secrets. Apple released the iPad on March 11, 2011, around three months after the Foxconn employees’ arrests.

Apple thinks secret

Today, Apple hardware details still leak ahead of product releases. That’s unsurprising when you consider how many thousands of people work in the manufacturing process, many at low wages. In fact, what’s remarkable is that more pictures don’t show up online ahead of a typical Apple hardware launch.

Although Apple CEO Tim Cook has been a bit more open about the company’s future plans than Steve Jobs ever was, Cupertino continues to guard its upcoming hardware secrets ferociously. Over the years, it has taken numerous steps to improve secrecy among its suppliers — including hiring teams of undercover security officers and slapping its manufacturers with multimillion-dollar fines if they don’t do enough to protect Apple’s plans.

Today, Apple’s war on leaks continues. Last year, the company warned its employees about the serious consequences of leaks — in a memo that promptly leaked.

With billions of dollars riding on successful product launches, you can’t blame Apple for being cautious.