Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Apple conceals iPad freight records - report

February 18, 2010: 10:43 AM ET

Moves to hide ocean shipping data from competitors and prying reporters, according to trade privacy group

In preparation for the scheduled March delivery of Apple's (AAPL) new iPad tablet computer, the company has blocked its bills of lading and other import records from public access, according to a report issued Thursday by Trade Privacy, a trade data protection company based in Reston, VA.

"Apple is the only major electronics company so far to have protected their import data," says Trade Privacy CEO Andrew Park. "Similar companies like Microsoft, Sony and Google continue to import with their product data exposed to the public."

Nearly a billion records filed with U.S. Customs have been made public through the Freedom of Information Act, according to Trade Privacy's press release, creating a market opportunity for business intelligence companies like ImportGenius and Panjiva that collect, analyze and resell the data.

Park founded Trade Privacy when he discovered that information about his import company, Flag World Shop, was being marketed to competitors by Import Genius. He spent months learning how to protect records that included the names of his manufacturers, descriptions of his goods and the quantities he was importing. Now he is offering to provide the same service other companies for a fee.

According to Park, Apple was alarmed two years ago by media reports -- including Apple 2.0's -- that predicted the arrival of the iPhone 3G before it had been announced based on data from Import Genius. "Apple was caught off guard and took swift action to protect their trade-secrets from competitors," says Park.

They managed to do it, however, without his help.

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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