The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has recently filed formal charges against a former Apple engineer named Weibao Wang. This development, as reported by CNBC, stems from allegations that Wang stole Apple’s autonomous driving technology in order to benefit a Chinese self-driving car startup. Wang was employed by Apple from 2016 to 2018 and held a position that granted him significant access to various databases, including the entire autonomy source code.
According to the DOJ, the specific data accessible to Wang was limited to only 2,700 of Apple’s 135,000 employees. As he left the company in 2018, Wang had already secured employment at an undisclosed Chinese firm engaged in autonomous driving technology development. During this period, he began accumulating substantial amounts of sensitive commercial technology and source code from Apple.
In June 2018, law enforcement officials executed a search warrant at Wang’s residence and discovered a significant collection of stolen, confidential, and proprietary data. It is worth noting that, despite an agreement not to flee the country, Wang managed to evade authorities and boarded a flight from San Francisco to Guangzhou, China.
Should Wang be extradited and charged within the United States, the DOJ anticipates a potential prison sentence of ten years for each count. He currently faces six separate charges related to the theft, in addition to attempted theft of Apple’s entire autonomy source code, tracking systems, behavior planning for autonomous systems, and descriptions of the underlying hardware.
The DOJ’s announcement of Wang’s charges occurred during a press event, wherein the department also revealed charges in four other cases. These actions are part of a recently established “strike force” aimed at preventing foreign adversaries from accessing sensitive technology within the United States.
It is worth mentioning that Apple is concurrently involved in two additional legal cases concerning former Project Titan engineers accused of stealing trade secrets.