posted by Thom Holwerda on Fri 2nd Sep 2011 21:47 UTC
IconSo, I kind of mocked this story yesterday, but today an interesting twist has emerged which puts the story in an entirely different light. This week, CNet reported a story about how Apple is working with the San Francisco Police Department to retrieve a lost iPhone 5 prototype. The police and Apple apparently traced the phone to someone's house, and showed up on his doorstep, threatening him and his family. The only problem - the SFPD has no record of any house search or of the case in general - raising the question whether Apple employees falsely impersonated the SFPD, which happens to be a serious crime in California. Update: While I was busy sleeping, the story changed a little bit, but it's still far too shady. After conferring with Apple, the SFPD now states four police officers were involved, and that only the two Apple employees entered Calderon's house. However, Calderon had no idea these two were private non-police people, since he claims they did not identify themselves as Apple employees. Had he known, he would not have let them search his house. So, update or no, Apple employees still impersonated police officers, and issued threats to intimidate Calderon into letting them search his house - without a warrant. I don't understand how people can just accept this sort of behaviour. Don't you have rights in the US? Update II: Perfect summary.

After CNet's story broke, the SF Weekly contacted Sergio Calderón to talk over what the heck happened that day. He details how six officials, four men and two women, claiming to be of the San Francisco Police Department showed up on his doorstep, claiming they traced the GPS signal of the lost iPhone 5 prototype to his house. The six officials asked if Calderón had been at the bar where the prototype was lost, and indeed, Calderón had been there.

The officials then asked if everyone in Calderón's house was staying in the US legally, and that the family could get into trouble. Even though Calderón and his entire family are legal citizens of the United States, he got nervous and allowed the six officials to search his house, car, and his computer. They found nothing.

They then offered Calderón $300 if he returned the phone. "They made it seem like they were on the phone with the owner of the phone, and they said, 'The person's not pressing charges, they just want it back, and they'll give you $300,'" he told SF Weekly.

As the officials left, one of them, 'Tony', gave him a phone number he could call if he had further information about the phone. SF Weekly decided to call this number, and it was answered by Anthony Colon, who confirmed he was an employee of Apple. His LinkedIn site, which has since been taken down (SF Weekly has screenshots of the profile), confirms that Colon is 'senior investigator' at Apple. He is a former San Jose Police sergeant.

The problem with all this is that the San Francisco Police Department has nothing on record about the search, or even about any case in general. This raises the question if Apple employees falsely impersonated police officers, while also threatening an innocent family. Both of these are serious crimes, said SFPD spokesman Lt. Troy Dangerfield.

"This is something that's going to need to be investigated now. If this guy is saying that the people said they were SFPD, that's a big deal," he said, "There's something amiss here. If we searched someone's house, there would be a police report."

This could turn out to be real bad for Apple. If Apple employees indeed falsely impersonated police officers and threatened an innocent family, these employees could be in serious trouble - let alone the damage it would do to Apple's image. Of course, there's always the possibility of something being wrong in the bureaucratic chain of the SFPD, but even if there was no paper trail, at least someone would know about it.

I honestly do not think this is some sort of official policy at Apple, but policy or no, there could apparently be a climate within the company where something like this is possible. This case suddenly turned into something very interesting.

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