Apple’s use of influence dangerous

In March, Apple engineer Gray Powell lost a prototype iPhone 4G at a bar while celebrating his birthday. The one-off phone was found and picked up by a stranger who identified the object as a disguised iPhone. Upon this discovery, he sold the phone to popular technology website Gizmodo in exchange for cold hard cash — $5,000 to be exact.

Despite the phone being remotely bricked after its disappearance, Gizmodo’s editors and bloggers in no time had released details of the phone as they snapped photos of it and threw them on their website. At the same time, to ensure Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ dirty little secret was going to be exploited in every way possible, Jason Chen, an editor for Gizmodo, presented the phone’s observable features in a video.

Bad move, Jason, bad move.

Police raided Chen’s home Friday with a warrant to seize his computers under the premise that they had been used to commit a felony.

Perhaps Jobs was so upset by Powell misplacing his iPhone that he felt compelled to ask the police to go and trash Chen’s house.

Now, it needs to be acknowledged that Jobs isn’t exactly a doltish individual. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize, based on Gizmodo’s eagerness to publicize one undercover Apple product, that it probably wouldn’t hesitate to do the same again if it had access to any more devices.

Jobs knew that Chen was your average nerd who enjoys making what amounts to allowance money from blogging about technology and gadgetry. As if retrieving the sacred prototype iPhone didn’t settle things enough (Gizmodo did indeed return the phone), the police by way of Apple justified the need to storm Chen’s house with the explanation that he might have been a top-secret, super-crazy intelligence agent who had Jobs on his hit list.

But wait, perhaps we’re all missing the point. Maybe this whole fiasco is simply a marketing ploy fabricated by Apple’s brilliant marketing department. Could we be pulling away from rainbow-colored iPod commercials in favor of epic viral campaigns?

If that truly is the case, then Steve Jobs, you’ve really outdone yourself this time. Maybe the iPad isn’t selling as well as you had hoped, or maybe college students are finally realizing your laptops shouldn’t cost more than their cars.

Whatever the case, one thing is for sure — if Chen wasn’t a fan of Apple products before this happened, he certainly won’t be now.

Newton Liu is a communication junior and may be reached at [email protected]


  • It is state and federal law that you must make a reasonable effort to return a found item. The finder did no such thing, as he had both the name of the owner and the location it was found, but pursued neither option. It is a crime (theft) to take possession of a found item and not attempt return it.

    It is a state & federal crime to sell stolen goods. It is a state & federal crime to BUY stolen goods.

    The police don’t just trash someone’s house on the whims of a corporation. In fact, they investigate crimes. Apple reported the theft once they knew it was stolen.

    Furthermore, since gizmodo committed a crime: purchase of goods known to be stolen (and please don’t start with the “they didn’t know it was apple’s” line of logic), shield laws certainly don’t apply.

    There is zero ambiguity here.

  • You are talking through your arse just a bit here. Jobs knew this, Jobs knew that? Do you know Jobs well enough to make those sorts of assumptions? And Jason Chen? Chen is an editor at Gizmodo. That’s a bit more clout than simply being your average blogger. Add to that the hardware they pulled away from his house (something like two servers and four other computers). And the iPad’s been selling very well. Well enough that it sold out and one guy lost all but the bone from one of his fingers as some guy stole his. Do your research.
    I think you were on the right track for a bit, however, until you got to that 7th paragraph. Apple likely did this to serve Jason and Gizmodo up as an example to the rest of the journalistic community. Nothing more, nothing less. Of course, Gizmodo is challenging the legality of the search warrant, so this may or may not play out well for them. Let’s not forget to mention they took his actual computers from the home, rather than the hard drives or images of those drives, which is almost surely overkill for this situation- another reason to think he was used as an example.

  • The fact is, the second it left an Apple employee’s possession, it became lost, the second it entered a third party’s it became found, and the second it was sold to Gizmodo, it became stolen. Gizmodo is no victim, and thus, there is no discussion. Yes, Apple overreacted, but so would have Google (despite claims otherwise), RIM, and any other manufacturer, but they did so with good reason and were within their legal rights to protect their unreleased, and un-finalized work (when revealed by journalists, is not applicable to shield laws).
    This says more about Chen’s journalistic integrity than it does about Apple.

  • I don’t think so. I think Chen was asking for trouble when he posted the story with the videos and the like, but that doesn’t mean that Apple was acting within their legal rights- one does not disqualify the other. And stating that Google or RIM would do the same is an even weaker argument. That they would also pursue that course of action does nothing to justify it either. As he returned the phone (at Apple’s demand), there was no need to break into his home. There was no need to physically remove entire machines from his home. They could have removed or cloned his storage devices. Removing RAM from any machine will kill any contents cached therein.They could have subpoenaed him while he was present. No, this wasn’t for any sort of justifiable legal or ethical reason. It sounds, at least to me, as if there’s a whole lot of dumbass going around each side of this matter. It will likely turn into bad PR for Apple, even worse for the San Mateo Police Department. If this wasn’t at Apple’s discretion, the SMPD may have a lot to answer for by themselves. Jason Chen and the individual who sold him the phone will likely get no negative result from this, and may even see some positive.

Leave a Comment