Here's how Apple's 'mysterious' Frank Fearon really signs his email

There's no question -- it's not a question mark

The world of Frank Fearon, an Apple engineer who is thought to be working on autonomous car technology, isn't perhaps as cloak and dagger as you were told.

On Friday, The Guardian published a scoop revealing that Fearon has been in talks with the Contra Costa Transportation Authority over getting access to the Concord Naval Station. The former U.S. military base near San Francisco is being turned into an autonomous car testing facility called "GoMentum Station."

In its article, The Guardian noted that "Fearon signs his emails with a cryptic question mark icon" and said it demonstrated that Apple's well-known obsession with secrecy extends internally, within the company.

But, he doesn't.

150817 apple fearon Martyn Williams

An email sent by Apple's Frank Fearon shows the Apple logo in his signature file.

It's just the Apple logo.

A copy of the same email obtained by IDG News Service did indeed display a question mark enclosed within a box on a Windows PC, but the Apple logo appeared when viewed on a Mac. On the Windows computer, the cryptic character was signifying that the character didn't exist in the font being used.

None of this is to say the rest of what Fearon and Apple are doing isn't mysterious.

Fearon's signature file doesn't include any information about him other than a phone number.

In the emails, Fearon discusses a conference call with the GoMentum Station's program manager for intelligent transportation systems to find out "what kind of facilities you have out there."

The emails discuss the need for a U.S. Army background check to enter the actual facility.

"As soon as you have worked out access to the testing grounds without needing security clearance, let me know and we'll make a trip out to see the space. It would be a big chunk of time to bring everyone out there without being able to walk them through the actual test space."

They don't reveal anything about what Apple is working on, but GoMentum is dedicated to "research development, testing validation and commercialization of connected vehicle applications and autonomous vehicles technologies."

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Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
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