Rotten Apple: Police Investigating After Gizmodo Pays “Source” $5000 For Prototype Apple Phone

The story of how an Apple employee left a prototype phone at a bar has been out this week after Gizmodo bought the phone, took it apart, and featured it on its site. What I find interesting is that someone found the phone at a bar and proceeded to take it and sell it to Gizmodo for $5000. Putting aside the dishonesty of this act, Gizmodo may have bought stolen property. This was clearly not abandoned or discarded property, as both the “source” and Gizmodo were aware. Moreover, Gizmodo knew its true owner — Apple.
It is now being reported that police are investigating the alleged theft, here. They have ample reason to investigate.

Gizmodo Senior Editor Jesus Diaz desperately tried to frame the receipt of the stolen goods as a simple journalistic exercise: “Paying for an exclusive has always been done in the journalism world. There are people who admit they do it and people who do not. We have done it.”

Diaz admitted that it was simply left at the bar by accident: “”An engineer was in a bar, celebrating his birthday. He drank two drinks too many and forgot the phone.”

Brian Lam, the editorial director, added “Just so you know, we didn’t know this was stolen when we bought it. Now that we definitely know it’s not some knockoff and it really is Apple’s, I’m happy to see it returned to its rightful owner. P.S. I hope you take it easy on the kid who lost it. I don’t think he loves anything more than Apple except, well, beer.”

That seems a bit implausible. Gizmodo is approached by a man who has no connection to Apple with a phone that he knew nothing about. The phone is immediately recognized as a prototype, which is not for sale or available on the public market. Yet, Gizmodo had no idea that this man had stolen the phone? Notably, this was not a whistleblower revealing some danger to citizens or corrupt practices. It was the theft of a prototype so that Gizmodo could reveal its propriety secrets.

Gizmodo has now identified the engineer reportedly responsible for the lost phone: Gray Powell, 27, an Apple developer and a 2006 North Carolina State University graduate. He was celebrating his birthday at the bar.

What is astonishing is that Apple (which we have criticized for over-litigious practices — here) seemed pretty laid back in this case.

Under Gizmodo’s theory, they could open a virtual superstore of stolen items from “sources.”

For the full story, click here.

10 thoughts on “Rotten Apple: Police Investigating After Gizmodo Pays “Source” $5000 For Prototype Apple Phone”

  1. Apple should also consider the possibility that government involvement in the case combined with global media attention will only further compromise their internal security practices and potentially risk disclosure of other trade secrets that become known by investigators.

    If I were advising the firm I would recommend minimal cooperation with authorities in the hope that this just goes away. They can chalk up a few lessons learned about the physical security of these prototypes and have gotten a huge amount of free publicity once again.

    Although there was a lot of anticipation about the new phone, most are concerned more about breaking the AT&T service lock on these phones than anything else.

  2. Buddha,

    I came here looking to see if someone had called out the updates to this iPhone case, and you had. It creates the potential to make this case particularly significant.

    Are bloggers journalists? From the NYT:

    Gawker’s chief operating officer, Gaby Darbyshire, said it expected the immediate return of the computers and servers.

    “Under both state and federal law, a search warrant may not be validly issued to confiscate the property of a journalist,” she wrote in a letter to San Mateo County, Calif., authorities on Saturday. “Jason is a journalist who works full time for our company,” she continued, adding that he works from home, his “de facto newsroom.”

    “It is abundantly clear under the law that a search warrant to remove these items was invalid. The appropriate method of obtaining such materials would be the issuance of a subpoena,” Ms. Darbyshire continued.

    The letter was shared on Monday afternoon by Nick Denton, the founder and president of Gawker Media. “Are bloggers journalists? I guess we’ll find out,” Mr. Denton said in an instant message.

  3. @roycommi & Rob I also had heard that the guy called Apple and they didn’t believe he had a prototype.

    I have found a couple of cell phones, I usually just look for ‘home’ and give them a call, but if Apple bricked the phone, then its a bit harder to get a hold of anyone.

    Wonder if the new one will be on a system other than AT&T?

  4. Try that with something NASA is working on, and see how far you will get. Aren’t there people in the Federal Resorts, for conduct such as this?

  5. I think the article is very clear that the person that found it tried to give it back, but could not get past Apples front line of phones to someone that knew anything.

  6. Nah nothing stolen here. If the “Source” had stolen it from the guy who had it, yes. The engineer who had it did not indicate this was the case, so to deduce it was stolen is to assert an act that didn’t actually happen. Using legal-ease to assert theft, again, doesn’t mean it actually happened.

    Like Patrick Jane said “Court is just theater, who wins is decided by which side has the best liar”

  7. Instead of bricking the phone, why didn’t Apple just call the phone and offer the “source” a substantial reward for retuning it?

  8. When I first read the Gizmondo story, I wondered how long charges for receiving stolen goods would take. I see that answer is forthcoming. But as to Apple’s litigious nature? Yeah, their laid back attitude here makes me think of a word and that word is “plant”. Someone just “happened” to notice it was a prototype phone. Uh huh. And that “source” didn’t work for Apple? Yeah, pull the other one. None of this pardons that Gizmondo is in the wrong here, but if one thinks like a lizard there is this alternative logic: I’ve had problems with the press and leaks before. So how about I use a baited trap. Have a ‘seller’ leak a prototype to anyone stupid enough to pay for it and let ‘the system’ do its job. It’ll generate free publicity and we can poke some press outfit in the eye in one fell swoop. Maybe in the future, the press won’t be quite so happy to publish leaked information from us if they fear ‘the system’ in addition to my attorneys. Muahahahaha. Or words to that effect.

    “Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.” – Sun Tzu

    Apple is nothing if not subtle at times. Were they not, Bill Gates would have consumed them long ago. Do not underestimate their cunning or guile as a corporate entity.

    Still, that being said, “BAD GIZMONDO! Get under the porch!”

Comments are closed.