New York Times Reports on Apple's Obsession With Secrecy

In a feature article today, The New York Times reports on Apple's history of secrecy regarding its product plans and other company matters. While Apple's long history guarding of its product pipeline has fostered the growth of dedicated rumors sites such as MacRumors, the company's unwillingness to share details related to Steve Jobs' medical leave of absence has cast renewed attention on Apple's devotion to secrecy.

The report details the lengths Apple has gone to in guarding its secrets, beginning with limiting employee access to products under development.

Secrecy at Apple is not just the prevailing communications strategy; it is baked into the corporate culture. Employees working on top-secret projects must pass through a maze of security doors, swiping their badges again and again and finally entering a numeric code to reach their offices, according to one former employee who worked in such areas.

Work spaces are typically monitored by security cameras, this employee said. Some Apple workers in the most critical product-testing rooms must cover up devices with black cloaks when they are working on them, and turn on a red warning light when devices are unmasked so that everyone knows to be extra-careful, he said.

Beyond limiting access, Apple also routinely provides misinformation to reporters, analysts, and even its own employees. In many cases, Apple has gone as far as deliberately providing incorrect details to its employees as part of attempts to track down the sources of leaks.

Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president for marketing, has held internal meetings about new products and provided incorrect information about a product's price or features, according to a former employee who signed an agreement not to discuss internal matters. Apple then tries to track down the source of news reports that include the incorrect details.

Regarding Steve Jobs' medical leave of absence during which he reportedly received a liver transplant, the report also addresses the controversy over whether Apple's lack of disclosure may even have violated federal laws regulating disclosure of health information for senior officials that could have material effects on companies' stock performance.

In contrast to many companies that have adopted open communications policies, including adding blog and Twitter presences, Apple stands out as an innovative technology company that continues to shun such avenues of communications in favor of keeping information as close to the vest as possible. While the strategy provides a level of excitement regarding Apple's product announcements and undoubtedly provides the company with an advantage over its competitors in many cases, Apple's lack of transparency is regarded as an increasingly important issue from the perspective of investors, regulatory agencies, and the media.

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