Well, this is unexpected. The iPhone 4G saga just got a whole lot crazier – dare I say it, a whole lot more ridiculous. Have you ever reported anything like a phone or something similarly small stolen to the police? What was their reaction? Did you ever get the device back? Did they send an army of officers to get your device back? No? Odd. They raided Jason Chen’s house, and took four computers and two servers. Update: And thus our true colours reveal. “The raid that San Mateo area cops conducted last week on the house of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen came at the behest of a special multi-agency task force that was commissioned to work with the computer industry to tackle high-tech crimes. And Apple Inc. sits on the task force’s steering committee.” Update II: According to TechCrunch, the investigation has been put on hold while the DA ponders Gizmodo’s shield defence. Update III: Some legal insight from a constitutional law and first amendment expert and a law professor. The gist? The DA has said no one has been charged with anything here, making this just an investigation – however, this makes the search and seizing of material worse. “If the police are literally just gathering information, with no suspect targeted yet, then a subpoena against a journalist would have probably been smarter than a search warranted that resulted in the front door of Chen’s home being bashed in.”
The raid occurred last Friday night, while Chen and his wife were out to dinner. “Last Friday night, California’s Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team entered editor Jason Chen’s home without him present, seizing four computers and two servers,” writes Gizmodo, “They did so using a warrant by Judge of Superior Court of San Mateo.”
It seems like the police is taking all this stuff very seriously – which is a good thing. If a crime has been committed, then it’s their job to find those responsible. Whether or not a crime has been committed is up for debate; a phone was found, a rather flimsy attempt was made at returning it (calling Apple directly), it was sold to Gizmodo, who opened it up to ensure it was real, and a week later, it was given back to Apple upon request.
Personally, I’d say that’s it. The phone is back where it belongs, no one got hurt, no one lost any property or money, and we all lived happily ever after. If something similar happened to my phone, or any other generic phone, the police most certainly wouldn’t pull out the big guns like this. I guess having a massive company breathing down your neck certainly helps if you ever want your stolen phone back. Noted.
Still, there are enough aspects of the story that are dubious, at best. The person who found the phone could’ve done more to return it (police, bartender) – at the same time, you can also argue that calling the actual owner (which is what he claims he did) constitutes a reasonable effort to return the lost property.
Gizmodo’s deconstruction of the device is what I have more problems with. It wasn’t theirs to take apart, whether they intended to return it or not. They will probably argue that they thought it was a knock-off, and needed to open it to confirm who the original owner was, but I don’t think that’ll hold.
Crime or no, my biggest issue with this is the blatantly obvious class justice being applied here. If this was any other person’s phone, the police most likely wouldn’t put even 5% of the amount of effort into retrieving it as they’re doing now. I know it’s an inevitable part of society, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get worked up over it.