Apple helped make ‘top secret’ iPod for US government
Apple helped the US government build a “top secret” iPod with hidden sensors inside, a former employee revealed.
According to former Apple software engineer David Shayer, only four people in the company were aware of the project.
Two men from a defense contractor arrived at Apple in 2005 on behalf of the US Department of Energy, he said.
They had wanted help building an iPod that looked and worked just like a regular one, but secretly recorded data using additional hardware hidden inside.
Apple had helped engineers build a customized version of the iPod software to house the secret device, Shayer said.
“They were careful to make sure I never saw the hardware,” he wrote in a lengthy post for Apple’s Tidbits newsletter.
“And I never did.”
He said the two engineers, from defense contractor Bechtel, had worked for months in an office in the Apple buildings.
“They wanted to add custom hardware to an iPod and record data from this custom hardware to the iPod disk in a way that could not be easily detected,” he wrote.
“But it still had to look and function like a regular iPod.”
The couple were given a copy of the iPod system’s source code on DVD and bought their devices in stores to experiment, Shayer said.
“This was not a partnership with Bechtel with a contract and a payment,” he wrote.
“It was Apple that did the Department of Energy a backroom favor.”
Mr. Shayer never found out exactly what the two engineers were building, but he suspected “something like an invisible Geiger counter” for measuring radiation unnoticed.
The Department of Energy is, among other functions, responsible for nuclear energy.
The story was backed up by other Apple employees at the time.
Tony Fadell, the former vice president of the iPod division, tweeted that the story was “absolutely spot on” and “undoubtedly real”.
“Crazy super cool technology that the government was working on back then … I can only imagine what it’s cooking these days,” he added.
Apple has yet to respond to a request to confirm the affair.
The company has made privacy a key point for marketing its iPhones, leading to disagreements with the US Department of Justice.
But the high level of secrecy – and the fact that the four people who knew it had left Apple by then – meant that Mr. Shayer said, “The PR people would honestly tell you that Apple has no record of any such projects.” .