Thursday, April 29, 2010

Apple unleashes Hypocrisy 4.0

Posted By on Thu, Apr 29, 2010 at 4:15 PM

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Compared to the media frenzy surrounding the iPad’s release earlier this month, last Friday’s police raid on behalf of Apple caused barely a ripple in the mainstream media. But that may change in the wake of Jon Stewart's eight-minute rant on the subject last night.

A quick recap: Apple employee leaves iPhone 4.0 prototype in a bar. Finder sells it to tech blog Gizmodo for, get this, FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS. They write about it, then return the lost phone. Police officers then show up at editor Jason Chen’s home, bust down the door, and confiscate his computer equipment.

Still, why blame Apple? After all, it’s not like Silicon Valley cops work for private computer companies.

Then again, maybe they do: The raid was carried out by the Santa Clara-headquartered Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT). In addition to boasting a flashy acronym, REACT is, according to a 2009 San Jose Business Journal story, “a consortium of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies” that serves as a liaison between said agencies and the computer industry.

And guess what? REACT is overseen by a steering committee of 25 companies, including Microsoft, Adobe and, yes, Apple.

Ironically, Marc Weidenbaum, a California journalist who publishes an electronic ambient music webzine called Disquiet, had recently told me about a personal experience that suggests Team Apple’s battle for justice may be just a bit hypocritical. I asked Marc to email me the details, in order to make this blog even longer:

The basics are: I found an iPhone in a taxi. I brought it to an Apple Store. The guy who greeted me said, "Are you sure you don't want to sell it?" When I convinced him that I didn’t, he took me to the cashier, who said, "Are you sure you don't want to sell it?" He directed me to the genius bar, where the guy said, "Are you sure you don't want to sell it?"

I was quoted the amount they were going for on eBay. You would have thought there was no way for me to find the owner. The phone hadn't been registered, but all I did was hook it up to my computer, and a name popped up. I did a search on Facebook, and located the guy.

Granted, three bad Apple geniuses don’t necessarily reflect the ethics of a massive corporation that happened to report record profits last week. And it IS a little weird that Gizmodo would sink to the level of paying for news, a National Enquirer-style approach that doesn’t exactly fit with the whole image of Internet bloggers as the vanguard of a newer, purer journalistic ethos.

Still it will be curious to see how this all shakes down. Gizmodo's parent company, Gawker Media, is now threatening to sue on the grounds that the raid violates the California journalist shield law. The counter-argument is likely to be that Chen knowingly bought the prototype from someone other than its actual owner, an act that could potentially lead to prosecution instead of protection.

What fun. But for now at least, let's give Stewart the last word:


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