Apple Worked with US Government to Build Top-Secret iPod

A former Apple employee shared the secret story.
Derya Ozdemir

Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory, and Apple has definitely gotten its share of them throughout the years. Most recently, a former Apple software engineer who has worked for the company for 18 years, has shared the story of how Apple helped a U.S. Department of Energy contractor modify a 5th-generation iPod to secretly record and store data.


Roughly 15 years after the event, Shayer wrote about his experience in aiding the U.S. Department of Energy with a highly modified and top-secret iPod on TidBits. While you should definitely read his report, which reads like a novel, here is a short look at what went down:

U.S. Department of Energy wanted to build a "special" iPod

Back in 2005, he was approached by the director of iPod software to try "help two engineers from the U.S. Department of Energy build a special iPod."

The engineers were reportedly contractors from Bechtel, which is a large U.S. defense contractor. The secret iPod was to build right under Steve Jobs' nose, with only four individuals being aware of the project at that time.

What was the goal?

Shayer explained their goal, "They wanted to add some custom hardware to an iPod and record data from this custom hardware to the iPod’s disk in a way that couldn’t be easily detected. But it still had to look and work like a normal iPod."

His role in the project was to manage any help needed by the Department of Energy as they worked at a given office at Apple headquarters. The contractors were taught how to change the early iPod operating system to their liking.

The device chosen for this secret task was a fifth-generation iPod due to its easily-opening case and 60 GB disk. Since its operating system was not digitally signed by Apple, performing modifications to the software modification was easier.

He never saw the custom hardware

While Shayer stated that he never saw the added custom hardware personally, his guess is that they were "building something like a stealth Geiger counter." This would enable someone to record radioactivity levels while looking like they were using a seemingly-regular iPod. Such a device would be useful for the Department of Energy, especially when managing secret operations to gather evidence of radioactivity.

Crazy story! If you're doubting the credibility of the story, here is a tweet by former iPod chief Tony Fadell, who was the vice president of iPod at that time.

What exactly that iPod was supposed to do still remains a mystery; however, it makes for a fascinating story indeed.

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