When it emerged that a technology blog had apparently got its hands on a prototype of the new iPhone, the media storm was such that some people thought Apple may have cooked the whole thing up themselves, for a bit of free publicity. But judging by recent events, that looks increasingly unlikely: US police have raided the house of the blog's editor and confiscated all his computers, with suggestions that he may be charged with a criminal offence. Although you'd be forgiven for being sceptical about the idea that the employee who lost the phone in a local beer garden, after an afternoon on the sauce, really did have it 'stolen'...
This whole saga began back in March, when Apple software engineer Gray Powell apparently lost his whizzy new iPhone - which, as is standard procedure, he'd been allowed to take off the premises for field testing, disguised as a normal 3G version - in a local German-style beer garden (soon after tweeting about how good the lager was). A few weeks later, the person who'd come into possession of the phone sold it to tech blog Gizmodo for $5,000 - which promptly took a load of pictures and broke the story as an exclusive before returning it to Apple (whose letter asking for it back is just about the only official comment they've made about the whole thing).
Now it transpires that on Friday, California police raided the house of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen (who appeared in the video blog about the device) and confiscated six computers, along with various other bits and bobs. The suggestion appears to be that Gizmodo may have broken the law by paying to receive what was effectively stolen Apple property; if so, Chen could go to jail.
We have no idea whether the police did this because Apple complained, or if they pursued it of their own accord after all the coverage. But you have to say it reflects badly on Apple – it just looks like it's using some fairly heavy-handed methods to punish a breach of its precious privacy. Particularly since Gizmodo's owner Gawker is bound to milk this for all it's worth (it's already trying to turn this into a row about whether bloggers are protected by the same 'shield' laws that journalists can use to protect their sources). So whether Apple is involved or not - and we can't see what they have to gain by Chen going to jail - it will be tainted by association.
Besides, the potential charge sounds tenuous to us. The theory that the phone was stolen from Powell would sound a lot more plausible if he hadn’t misplaced it after a night in a German beer hall...
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