There was a time, when Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was running the company, that secrecy was paramount at the tech giant's headquarters in Cupertino, California.

The secrecy allowed for Apple to move quickly on new technologies without tipping off its competitors. In many cases, it also created far more hoopla around its announcements than was warranted.

As time has gone on, something has changed in the technology industry. Secrecy still matters at Apple, Google, and elsewhere, but it's become much harder to actually keep things secret. And in some even more surprising cases, companies themselves have revealed their plans before official launches.

Nowhere is the death of secrecy more apparent than after evaluating the recent spate of iPhone 11 rumors.

Over the past few days, reports have emerged that Apple is ditching its 3D Touch feature for the iPhone 11. Those reports were followed by the latest set of renders, or graphical depictions, of what the iPhone 11 might look like when Apple launches it later this year. Those renders are often based on leaks from the supply chain. In other words, they're usually pretty accurate.

"Supply chain sources" regularly appear in news stories these days, talking to reporters or industry analysts about what companies like Apple have planned for the future. Even the companies themselves mistakenly leak information on their websites, share design plans with accessories makers before they should, and fail to keep their employees quiet.

Like it or not, in the technology industry, rumor-mongering has become big business. There's a steady stream of people willing to hand over their knowledge to reporters, leak videos, and otherwise share what they know.

And companies trying to stop the rumors from surfacing are now facing many more reporters and industry analysts seeking those rumors than ever before. Needless to say, today's technology world isn't conducive to keeping things quiet. So, what can you do?

You could follow Apple's example and try to maintain secrecy as much as possible. Apple has ignored opportunities to talk about future plans and thought better of commenting on rumors. It simply lets the rumors happen and hopes they'll go away.

The problem is, as the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max launch of last year showed, the rumors are often accurate. In many cases, they reveal everything Apple has planned before it can do it.

Other companies have taken a different tack.

Samsung has often used the media to share details on its future plans. It's not uncommon for Samsung executives to comment on when a smartphone will launch or discuss the kinds of features it might have. The company will even use its mid-tier devices to test features it plans for future high-end smartphones.

By the numbers, Samsung is the world's top smartphone maker. The strategy doesn't appear to be negatively affecting its business.

OnePlus, a boutique Chinese smartphone maker, has created its own viral content and rumors to boost interest in its future handset launches. The company's CEO even engaged media outlets in interviews about its most recent handset, the OnePlus 7 Pro -- before he  took the stage to unveil it.

Whereas once, secrecy was everything, now it's a marketing tool. And the companies that use it best--either to double down or let details leak--are often the most successful.

Never underestimate the power of secrecy in tech.

Published on: May 31, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.