We Don’t Get to Be Outraged by Apple Leaks

2 minute read
| The Back Page

News flash: we in the Apple-loving community don’t get to be outraged by leaks about Apple products. Not even when it’s a leak that may have—or did—come from someone within Apple.

I get why Apple gets cranky about leaks. The company does, after all, work intensely hard to keep things secret. That’s the thing, though. It’s Apple’s work in maintaining secrecy that puts value on those secrets in the first place. No one gives a crap what Intel’s going to to do a year from now because Intel tells us what it’s going to do a year from now.

The Apple Crystal Ball

But Apple doesn’t, and the company is worth almost a significant part of a trillion dollars. That makes Apple’s secrets worth something to Wall Street, publishers, and consumers. Wall Street and publishers alike are highly motivated to incentivize leakers (i.e. pay for information). Some Apple employees are incentivized to get their 15 minutes of anonymous fame, too. It’s all part of the ecosystem of people interested in what Apple does.

Put another way, Apple can’t have its cake and eat it, too, and neither can we, its fans. We’re the ones out here consuming this stuff; we’re the ones reading the stories about leaks; and, we’re the ones conferring our own value on these leaks, driven by Apple’s efforts and mixed success in keeping a lid on them.

It’s either a vicious cycle or a virtuous circle, or maybe both, but we don’t get to be outraged.

Same As It Ever Was

This stuff isn’t new, either. MacWeek used to give Apple employees and other sources a mug for leaked information. Apple sued ThinkSecret publisher Nick DePlume trying to get its sources (a settlement between the parties resulted in the site shutting down).

MacRumors, AppleInsider, and 9to5Mac have peddled a steady stream of rumors and leaks for years. The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Bloomberg, and other mainstream publications now have multiple reporters dedicated to discovering Apple’s secrets.

Millions of hands and eyeballs are involved in development, ramp-up, and manufacture of Apple’s products. As I’ve noted repeatedly, that’s too many people for Apple to keep things much of a secret.

While Apple’s latest GM leak is novel, leaks have been oozing out of Apple for always, interspersed by brief flashes of keynote mysteries (Mac Pro 2013, for instance).

Not Even Apple

The thing is, not even Apple gets to be outraged by this newest leak. In addition to what I mentioned above about Apple itself creating the market for leaks, the company uses leaks. Controlled leaks have long been part of Apple’s excellent arsenal for shaping the public narrative about the company.

There’s a difference between a controlled leak and a “rogue employee” leak—let alone a supply chain leak—but these things don’t exist in a vacuum. In a world where a controlled leak has value, other leaks are going to happen, too.

Of course, Apple can certainly go after leakers, and the company’s executives have every right in the world to sing us a song about how heartbreaking it is when employees’ hard work gets spoiled.

But spare me any pious bleating outside of Apple. At the very least, let he who has never published a leak cast the first stone.

It’s not our job to protect Apple’s secrets, and pretending to be upset when something like a publicly-available GM release gets leaked makes no sense when we participate in the culture of rumors surrounding Apple.

9 Comments Add a comment

  1. geoduck

    A First: I utterly disagree with you on this subject.

    If you were disgusted by how Gawker handled the iPhone 4 that fell into its hands, then you have to be just as nauseated by how 9to5 and others handled the big data dump over the weekend. One was a phone lost by an Apple employee that was not returned promptly as it should have been. Instead it was disassembled and mined for data that they had no business getting. The other was an Apple employee violating his NDA and dumping confidential information out to the press that they had no business getting. Ethically there’s no difference.

    I would go farther and say that yes there is a difference between a whisper in an alley, a fuzzy picture of a part taken by some low level assy line flunky, or a controlled, tactical leak by Apple itself and the latest data dump. One is a titillating bit of information, the other is the secrets that make the brand exciting. It’s the difference between the SI Swimsuit Edition and Hustler Magazine.

    As I posted on another story today; Want to know why most recent Apple announcements have been greeted with cries of disappointment? Why in the SJ era these announcements were thrilling events that I and many others interrupted out workday to catch, while today they’re not? It’s because while whispers in the dark build excitement, the massive leaking of every detail, every nook and cranny, spoils the surprise. Why bother to watch tomorrow, we already know what they’re going to release right down to color and the names. What’s worse, mixed in with the leaks of real information, are lots of false stories. Speculation that most people can’t tell from rel data.

    So nothing announced tomorrow will be a surprise. The only surprise will be what will not be announced. After the release Apple stock will slump because they didn’t fulfill all the predictions and leaks (whether factual or not). The web will be full of stories about how Apple can’t innovate and is losing relevance. All because everyone has to read the leaks.

    Apple not being able to keep secrets is bad for Apple. Yes I DO get to be outraged when some J*A violates his NDA and dumps confidential information to the press. I hope Apple finds him. I hope he spends the rest of his working career as a greeter at Wallmart. He sure as H*** has no place in the tech industry.

      • geoduck

        I didn’t even bother to watch it. I already knew everything they were going to announce. The only surprises for me was that the new iOS will come out on the 19th and macOS on the 25th. Not a happy surprise.

  2. Greg H

    The surprise and delight was part of Steve Job’s magic. I kinda miss that but I can’t help but look at all the rumors. I don’t like someone to spoil the ending of a movie but If I find out this info early, it’s ok as it gets me excited to see the event. I’m sure there will be some stuff that is new that wasn’t leaked.

  3. Lee Dronick

    Leaks are not necessarilly facts and I hate how “the media” reports rumors and speculation as if it was from an Apple press release.

  4. The Hooded Guest

    Good posting from geoduck – completely agree. At the end of the day, if Apple choose to do controlled leaks to generate awareness or put tech media off the track (I would), then that’s their business and the appropriate people are in the know. But an employee, disgruntled or not, clearly violating an NDA is a different proposition altogether. What a dick move.

    However, whatever the reasons behind the actions of this employee, it won’t prevent me from watching the keynote. While I’ve skimmed some of what we’ll likely be seeing tomorrow, I still want to see the hardware, the software, the demos and lets face it, unless you follow tech, most consumers won’t even know what’s coming tomorrow. Even better, lets hope there’s a ‘one more thing’ that hasn’t made the leak list.

  5. mrboba1

    Yeah – another agreement with geoduck. You are way off on this one, Bryan.

    To touch on a point that wasn’t mentioned – to conflate the controlled leaks and one like this is quite a reach.

    The former is basically a press release from the company without the baggage of it coming right from the company itself. Much like in politics, you float out this stance, see how it is received, and use that information to adjust your positioning. You can then disavow if it is unpopular and move on with what people want. How in the world is that the same as an employee leaking the GM? I’ll tell you: it’s not.

  6. ctopher

    I personally agree with Bryan, but I would never tell someone else what they can feel.

    That said, there have ALWAYS been leaks, its just that now, the stakes are much higher so the leaks appear in more mainstream media.

    Feel how you like, but if you’re upset, you’re tilting at windmills. (oops, I did it too!)

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