updated 03:15 pm EST, Wed February 17, 2010
Foxconn said to have 'special status' in China
Several new details have emerged regarding the tight security maintained by Apple's overseas suppliers to avoid information leaks, according to a Reuters report. Foxconn, a primary manufacturer for Apple, reportedly owns several compounds which include dormitories, recreational facilities, banks, post offices, and bakeries.
The on-site facilities are said to reduce the need for employees to leave the compound, a practice that helps to prevent information leaks. Each employee allegedly uses a security card to enter at the gate, while exiting workers must pass through metal detectors.
"They use metal detectors and search us," said an unnamed worker. "If you have any metal objects on you when you leave, they just call the police."
Apple has been accused of providing various products to its suppliers, with the intention of narrowing down the source of a leak. The company is also believed to follow a similar practice at its headquarters in Cupertino, California.
Many products are reportedly designed by several groups that may not have direct knowledge of what the other teams are working on. Selection of suppliers appears to mimic the strategy, with components sometimes processed through several different overseas companies. Splitting up the manufacturing is also said to help prevent the assembly-line workers from knowing the full details of a finished product.
"The typical production line worker will not see the product until the very last minute when actual production takes place," said an unnamed source at an Apple supplier. "It's all concentrated in the hands of a few product development teams."
Apple's contracts typically include confidentiality clauses explicitly prohibiting information leaks, although it may be difficult to sue a supplier without absolute proof that an employee has released information. Several suppliers have allegedly received verbal warnings, as Apple can choose an alternative company if it feels the security standards are not being upheld.
The tightened security at many of the Chinese factories has been associated with reports of employee mistreatment in the event of a suspected leak. Apple claims to enforce its supplier code-of-conduct, however, with occasional inspections and checks.