We know its products. We're intimately aware of its history, its legendary leaders and its ubiquitous technologies. But have you wondered what life must be like for the foot soldiers who make up the troops at Apple, Inc.? We're talking about a company that takes its operations — and its product development — very, very seriously, after all. Working in such an environment couldn't be easy, right? Just ask Samuel Crisp, the former Apple UK employee who was fired for maligning both the iPhone and his job on Facebook.

Of course, it doesn't take a "genius" to realize that the company doesn't take kindly to its staffers kvetching all over the webs or their social nets. But as an employer, is it really as strict as its reputation suggests? Well, it seems you can judge for yourself now: A section of Apple's employee handbook, "Apple Retail Blogging and Online Social Media Guidelines," has hit the wild, ready to satisfy your curiosity.

It shouldn't surprise anyone to know that staffers are not permitted to speculate about rumors, or indeed, even talk about the company at all on their personal sites, Apple blogs or other related websites. Nor is it shocking that this also applies to vendors, consultants or anyone else who does business with Cupertino. In fact, mandates like this are pretty common in tech circles.

If there's anything striking about the document, I think it might be the sort of didactic approach it takes. (In other words, it seems kind of preachy, no?) At least that's how it comes off to me. Have a peep (below) and let me know what your take is.

[via 9to5Mac]

Apple Retail Blogging and Online Social Media Guidelines:

Whether or not you as an Apple employee choose to create or participate in a blog, wiki, online social network or any other form of online publishing or discussion is your own choice. In general, what you do on your own time is your business. However, activities that affect your job performance, the performance of other Apple employees, or Apple's business interests are still covered by company policies and guidelines. This applies whether you engage in these activities in or outside of work, and whether or not you identify yourself as an Apple employee.

If you choose to participate in these types of online activities it is important that you understand what is recommended, expected and required, whether at work or on your own time. Accordingly, we have developed the following guidelines for you to follow when posting to a blog or some other form of social media like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or Linkedin.

Be thoughtful about how you present yourself in online social networks. The lines between public and private, and personal and professional are blurred in online social networks. If you identify yourself as an Apple employee or are known to be one, you are now connected to your co-workers, Leaders and even Apple's customers. You should ensure that content associated with you is consistent with Apple policies.

Respect your audience and your coworkers. Remember that Apple is a global organization whose employees and customers reflect a diverse set of customs, values and points of view. Don't be afraid to be yourself, but do so respectfully. This includes not only the obvious (no ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, etc.) but also topics that may be considered offensive or inflammatory. Use your best judgment, but if you need further guidance regarding what constitutes inappropriate communications please consult with HR, your Leader or Apple's Harassment policy.

Respect the privacy of your coworkers. Blogs, wikis, social networks and other tools should not be used for internal communications among fellow employees. It is fine for Apple employees to disagree, but please don't use your external blog or other online social media to air your differences. Do not discuss your co-workers without their permission, and ask permission before posting their picture. By respecting your co- workers' privacy you will be helping to maintain the professional work environment at Apple.

Respect the privacy of our customers. It is a priority that we respect the privacy of our customers. Do not use or discuss any information regarding customers for any purpose. This includes contacting customers for social reasons or soliciting outside business. If you need further guidance in this area, please refer to Apple's policy regarding customer private information.

Use a disclaimer. When Apple wishes to communicate publicly as a company it has well established means to do so. Only those individuals officially designated by Apple have the authority to speak on behalf of the company. If you identify yourself as an Apple employee, however, people may confuse your opinions with those of the company. In order to avoid this problem you must make clear that you are writing for yourself and on your own behalf, and not for Apple. At a minimum, we strongly recommend that you include a disclaimer similar to the following: "the postings on this site are my own and do not represent Apple's opinions or positions."

Protect Apple's confidential information. As an Apple employee you have an obligation to protect the confidential, proprietary and trade secret information of the company. This obligation is laid out in several places including the Intellectual Property Agreement you signed when hired and in Apple's Confidential Information Policy. For example, do not discuss any Apple confidential information including your store's financial or business performance, and the timing, pricing or design of Apple's products. Also, do not post pictures of the inside of the Apple Store – including the back of house – as those are not generally made public. Finally, do not post or disclose the contents of any Apple policy. These documents are intended for the use of Apple employees, and not for public distribution.

Respect copyright, fair use laws. For Apple's protection as well as your own, it is critical that you comply with all laws governing copyright and fair use of copyrighted material owned by others. For example, this means you should not be using Apple logos or images for your own personal use. Also, you may not copy, digitize, alter or distribute any part of a copyrighted work without first obtaining written permission from the copyright owner. For more information please refer to Apple's copyright policy.

Don't use your Apple email for personal use. Your Apple email address has been given to you for use at work. Therefore you should not use your Apple email address on your personal blog or when posting on social network sites. You have been given a
free .mac/.me email address to use for non-work related emails. Please use that email or another personal email address for those types of communications.

In sum, use your best judgment. Remember there may be consequences to what you post or publish online including discipline if you engage in conduct that Apple deems inappropriate or violates any Apple policies. If you're about to post something and you are concerned whether you are following these guidelines or any Apple policy, please discuss it with your Leader or HR before posting.

Confidential, Proprietary, and Trade Secret Information:

Apple recognizes that its confidential, proprietary, and trade secret information and that of third parties constitute our competitive advantage in the marketplace. Apple takes steps to protect its own confidential information and respects the confidential information of others. As a result, Apple expects all employees to take responsibility for protecting these sources of confidential information. Apple identifies, classifies, and protects all of its valuable business information from intentional or inadvertent disclosure, loss, modification, destruction, and copying. You may not disclose Apple confidential information to an outside party unless a written agreement or license has been previously signed and approved by the division vice president.

Likewise, Apple respects the confidential information of others. You may not use or disclose any such third-party information unless you are authorized by the third party to do so and until you have signed a confidentiality agreement with Apple.

Examples of Apple confidential information include, but are not limited to the following:

sales and financial information of any kind including store and individual metrics

product availability and constraints

information shared through store meetings, corporate meetings, RNN,BulletNews, Kbase, or any other internal

Apple resource

hiring and training information including salaries and bonus programs

Apple policies and procedures

Retail Store Websites

As an Apple employee, you may not create store websites displaying storerelated activities. This includes but is not limited to theater presentations, storeopenings, posting schedules or other store events.

Employee Personal Websites:

As an Apple employee, you are often the first on the block to see and touch new Apple products. While you may create personal websites, you may not display photographs, articles, or commentary about Apple products, services, or initiatives.

Posting Messages on Mac-Related Websites:

As an Apple employee, you represent the Apple brand. While you are free to view any website on your own time, you may not post messages or commentary on Mac and Apple-related websites, whether you identify yourself as an Apple employee or not.

Speculating on Rumors:

Refrain from speculating on anything Apple has not officially announced, even if a customer presses you for a personal opinion or indicates an interest in making a substantial purchase. Information leaks can potentially damage Apple's interests, and Apple has zero tolerance for those who leak information. When you began working for Apple, you agreed to keep Apple's confidential information within the workplace, including any information you receive from an internal Apple source. Be cautious of conversations with other employees on the salesfloor. Customers often overhear these conversations which can lead to misinformation.

Do not confirm or deny any information, even if customers pressure you by saying they are about to make or influence a substantial purchase or refer to non-Apple websites as sources of information. Refer to the following speaking points:

Apple does not comment on rumors about decisions, products, programs, or promotions that have not been officially announced by Apple.

By withholding comment, Apple hopes to protect customers from making decisions based on information that is incomplete, inaccurate, or subject to change before the formal announcement.

Apple believes this is the best way to ensure that all customers are treated fairly.

In addition to the above, speculating on rumors with internal Apple colleagues is strictly prohibited. Only those individuals on the Company's official disclosure list are entitled to receive and discuss information pertaining to unannounced Company information.

The Way We Do Business Worldwide:

Apple conducts business ethically, honestly, and in full compliance with all laws and regulations. This applies to every business decision in every area of the company worldwide.

Apple's Principles of Business Conduct:

Apple's success is based on creating innovative, high-quality products and services and on demonstrating integrity in every business interaction. Apple's principles of business conduct define the way we do business worldwide.

These principles are:

Honesty. Demonstrate honesty and high ethical standards in all business dealings.

Respect. Treat customers, suppliers, employees, and others with respect and courtesy.

Confidentiality. Protect the confidentiality of Apple's information and the information of our customers, suppliers, and employees.

Community. Conduct business in a way that benefits the communities in which we operate.

Compliance. Ensure that business decisions comply with all applicable laws and regulations.

Making the Right Decisions:

When facing a tough decision:

Use good judgment. Apply Apple's principles of business conduct, review our policies, review legal requirements, and then decide what to do.
Need some help? When in doubt about how to proceed, discuss pending decisions with your Store Leader, your Human Resources representative, or the Legal Department. If you need more support, contact the Business Conduct Helpline.

Your Responsibilities:

Apple's business conduct policy and principles apply to employees, independent contractors, consultants, and others who do business with Apple. All such individuals are expected to comply with Apple's business conduct policy and principles and with all applicable legal requirements. Apple retains the right to discipline (up to and including termination of employment) or end working relationships with those who do not comply.

Please see details of the Apple's Business Conduct policy on the HR Web. Apple Retail may have policies that supplement what is communicated in this link for our employees.