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Apple comes down hard on iPhone leakers

Last week, police raided a Gizmodo blogger's home after he spilled the beans about the next iPhone. Apple is out for blood

By Robert X. Cringely, InfoWorld
April 28, 2010 09:02 PM ET

InfoWorld - What do you do when one of your employees takes your company's top-secret prototype and leaves it behind in a beer garden, only to have it end up in the hands of a gadget blog? Call in the authorities and let them play the heavy.

The whole Gizmodo iPhone prototype story just got a whole lot stranger after a team of high-tech police investigators broke into Gizmodo blogger Jason Chen's home last Friday night and hauled off an impressive array of equipment -- including three MacBooks, an iPad, a ThinkPad, a Dell machine, two digital cameras, two cell phones, five external drives, a home server, business cards, and a letter from Gizmodo's chief counsel claiming their search warrant was invalid -- allegedly relating to the "theft" of that iPhone.

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[ Also on InfoWorld: Cringely wonders if Apple's fearless leader is showing his true colors in "Steve Jobs: Savior or tyrant?" | Stay up to date on all Robert X. Cringely's observations with InfoWorld's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]

This all began some time last month, when unlucky Apple engineer Gray Powell left the Gourmet Haus Staudt in Redwood City with apparently a nice buzz but not the fourth-generation iPhone model he was carrying in his pocket.

According to Wired's Evan Hansen, the as-yet-unnamed individual (let's just call him "John Phoe") who found the lost iPhone made some effort to attempt to reconnect it with its rightful owner (or as close as he could come to it). To wit:

The finder attempted to notify Apple and find the owner of the device but failed, even going so far as to search alphabetically through Facebook, the source said. Thoughts then turned to contacting the press about the device to confirm its authenticity and help locate the owner, but early attempts to drum up interest went unanswered. After a few days with no response, the finder expanded the search.

From there, though, the details get a bit murky. Allegedly John Phoe emailed Engadget, Gizmodo, Wired.com, and possibly others seeking to "confirm [the phone's] authenticity and help find the owner," but that email also contained "a thinly veiled request for money," per Wired.

To their credit, Engadget and Wired declined the offer, though Engadget still ran photos of the device, sent to them along with that email, in an attempt to scoop archrival Gizmodo -- so don't give them too much credit. Gizmodo took the bait, wrote a check for $5,000, posted the story, basked in millions of page views, and then returned the phone to Apple.

Apple could have dropped the matter right there. According to that report in Wired, the company already knew the location of John Phoe -- probably via the model's Find my iPhone feature -- and had sent people to his house, though they didn't actually speak to him. There was no need to call in the cops to unmask the leaker, if that's what Apple wanted.

But Apple didn't drop the matter. According to the San Jose Business Journal, Apple officials called the local DA and requested an investigation. Why? Because Apple wants to send a message. It's not looking to quietly punish transgressors; it's looking for a public execution.

Originally published on www.infoworld.com. Click here to read the original story.

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