Ex-Apple CPU architect accuses the firm of invading privacy

A former Apple executive dubbed the ‘chief architect’ of its processors has accused the company of reviewing confidential text messages before suing him after he left to start his own firm.

In August, Apple sued Gerard Williams III for alleged breach of contract after he left the company in February to launch his own startup, Nuvia, that’s slated to build processors for data centres. Williams has countered Apple’s claims, however, with allegations that the company monitored his private text messages, according to Bloomberg.

Apple had initially claimed that Williams breached an intellectual property agreement by engaging in business activities that were competitive with or directly linked with Apple’s business activities.

It’s well known, moreover, that Apple may consider designing or customising servers in the future and has dedicated R&D time and effort into optimising server performance internally, the firm’s accusations continued.

Until leaving Apple, Gerard Williams III had led the design of every one of its core mobile CPUs between the A7 chip, found in the iPhone 5S, to the A12X fitted into the 2018 iPad Pro. These chips have forged a reputation for being the fastest CPUs fitted into handheld devices in the market, and possess a unique form of architecture.

Williams, however, has hit back and accused Apple of a “stunning and disquieting invasion of privacy” over monitoring his private text messages. One message, for instance, remarked that Apple would have “no choice but to purchase” his new firm.

"[According to] Apple’s theory, if one Apple employee speaks to (or texts) another employee conveying criticisms of Apple’s strategies or decisions, that discussion is itself a purportedly unlawful ‘solicitation’ to leave Apple,” Williams said in a court filing.

This particular accusation is stark considering Apple has purported itself to be a privacy-centric company in recent years. Sign in with Apple, for example, was launched this year to counter the social media logins provided by companies like Facebook and Google, both accused previously of compromising user privacy.

Apple’s reputation took another hit over the weekend, after it emerged that a feature built into the iPhone 11 tracked users’ locations intermittently in all instances, even when all location tracking features were manually disabled.

Williams has fixed a hearing to attempt to get the case against him dismissed, with his lawyers accusing Apple of desperate attempts to “shut down lawful employment by a former employee”. The hearing is scheduled for 21 January.

IT Pro approached Apple for a statement.

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.