Report Profiles Secrecy at Apple's Asian Manufacturing Partners' Facilities

Reuters today reports on the secrecy demanded by Apple of its Asian manufacturing partners, profiling a sprawling Foxconn facility in Longhua, China complete where employees live and work while producing many of Apple's devices.

Inside the walled city -- one of several compounds run by Foxconn International, a major supplier for Apple Inc -- employees are provided with most of their daily needs. There are dormitories, canteens, recreation facilities, even banks, post offices and bakeries.

The rank-and-file within the compound have little reason to venture outside. That reduces the likelihood of leaks, which in turn lessens the risk of incurring the wrath of Apple and its chief executive, Steve Jobs, whose product launches have turned into long-running, tightly controlled media spectacles.

According to the report, workers are subject to metal detectors and searches when leaving the compound, while security personnel aggressively protect the security of the facility. One Reuters reporter was reportedly physically assaulted by Foxconn security personnel while taking photos of the compound from a public road, and only the intervention of police summoned by the reporter was able to resolve the situation.

"You're free to do what you want," the policeman explained, "But this is Foxconn and they have a special status here. Please understand."

Apple's manufacturing partners are also subject to confidentiality agreements as is standard in the industry, while Apple also performs unannounced security checks at manufacturing facilities to test security. According to sources, several partners have been warned about the possibility of losing their contracts if suspected leaks continued, although none appear to have actually had their contracts terminated.

Another security measure employed by Apple is the use of custom parts with tight lead times for parts manufacturers, limiting the amount of time such companies are aware of Apple's plans. Apple also reportedly sources components from many different manufacturers, leaving each one with only very limited knowledge of Apple's forthcoming devices until manufacturing begins just weeks before product launch. Finally, the report notes that Apple has been known to test potential manufacturing partners by contracting with them for production of different parts and watching for any leaks from those sources.

Apple's obsession with secrecy has been profiled in the past, with workers on its main headquarters campus in Cupertino faced with numerous security access points and special protocols to severely limit the number of people with knowledge of products under development. According to the earlier report, Apple has also been known to seed its own employees with incorrect information in attempts to discover the sources of product information leaks in its bid for the strictest security possible.

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