Police Raid on Gizmodo Editor’s Home After iPhone 4G Revealed

The backstory of the lost next-generation iPhone prototype acquired by gadget blog Gizmodo last week is certainly already the stuff of some legend, but hold on tight, because it just got even wilder, Engadget reports.

Police investigating lost iPhone prototype raid Gizmodo editor's home. Photo: Flickr

The backstory of the lost next-generation iPhone prototype acquired by gadget blog Gizmodo last week is certainly already the stuff of some legend, but hold on tight, because it just got even wilder, Engadget reports.

The house of Gizmodo’s editor Jason Chen was apparently raided by California’s REACT computer crimes task force under the authority of a search warrant on Friday night. The search warrant signed by a local judge specifically authorised the seizure of “printed documents, images and/or notations pertaining to the sale and/or purchase of the stolen iPhone prototype”.

Jason Chen said in a post on the Gizmodo yesterday that he and his wife returned from having dinner out on Friday to find police searching their home in the northern California county of San Mateo. He said: “The officers had a computer and were cataloging all the items they took from my home. They told me they were here for a few hours already and had to break the front door open because I wasn’t home to open the door.”

The officers, members of the California Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT), took four computers and two computer servers from the couple’s house, according to the posting. REACT was founded in 1997 specifically to reduce “the incidence of high technology crime through the apprehension of the professional organisers of large-scale criminal activities”.

“It’s hard to imagine,” Yahoo! senior journalist and blogger John Cook writes, “how the loss of a single phone in a bar merits the involvement of an elite task force of local, state, and federal authorities devoted to ‘reducing large-scale criminal activities'”. He added attempts to confirm Apple’s presence on the taskforce’s steering committee drew blanks with both an REACT spokeswoman and Apple.

Following the raid, Gizmodo also published a letter from a lawyer for its owner, Gawker Media, objecting to the raid on Mr Chen’s home and arguing that a “search warrant may not be validly issued to confiscate the property of a journalist”.

“We expect the immediate return of the materials that you confiscated from Mr. Chen,” said the letter from Gaby Darbyshire, who is also Gawker’s chief operating officer. Gizmodo said it ended up with the phone after no one else claimed it – even Apple, which was offered the phone back by its finder via its customer help line.

“Weeks later, Gizmodo got it,” the technology blog said. Nick Denton, founder of the Gawker blog network, said on his Twitter feed that $US5000 was paid for the phone. “Yes, we’ll do anything for a story,” Mr Denton said. “We’re proud practitioners of checkbook journalism.”

Police raided Mr Chen’s home after he last week revealed details last week of a secret next-generation iPhone 4G prototype. note: The “iPhone 4G” was reportedly found in a bar and sold to Gizmodo for $US5000 ($5400), which claimed that it did not know exactly what it was buying at the time. It was only after it published details of the iPhone and Apple demanded it back that Gizmodo realised it was a 4G prototype, Gizmodo claimed. [Gizmodo via Engadget and News (AU); photo via Flickr]

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