Does Apple really assign engineers to "fake" projects as a loyalty test?

"Apple Makes New Employees Work on Fake Products Until Apple Can Trust Them", blared a headline—and many others like it—last January. In the Apple-watching world, it has since become common wisdom that the company assigns new engineers to "fake" projects in order to test their loyalty—that is, their propensity to leak—before giving them actual work.

The claim took life with the publication of a book called Inside Apple, which claimed some employees were "hired into so-called dummy positions, roles that aren't explained in detail until after they join the company." Author Adam Lashinsky cited an unnamed Apple engineer who said he wasn't informed of what he would be working on until his first day on the job. This expanded into a wider-reaching "fake products" claim made when Lashinsky spoke about the book at LinkedIn. After his talk, an unnamed audience member said that a friend had worked on "fake products" at Apple for nine months before being put on something real. The point was related to Lashinsky's reporting on Apple's notorious secrecy and was meant to highlight the extremes to which Apple goes to protect its trade secrets. The moment was captured on video, and the idea that Apple puts employees on fake projects took off within the Apple blogosphere and became widely accepted as fact.