Police investigators from the San Mateo County in California have positively identified and interviewed the man who found the prototype iPhone 4G left behind by an Apple employee in a Redwood City bar in March. This is according to a news report that appeared on CNET Tuesday afternoon. Although the police refuse to identify the person, his story will no doubt guide the conduct of the investigation, which was held at the request of Apple. Police statements make it clear that they are still deliberating if they should file a criminal case against Gizmodo, who admitted to purchasing the phone for $5,000 from a source, or against the person who sold the phone. It also still remains unclear if the finder and the seller of the prototype are one and the same.
In another report, it turns out that representatives from Apple have identified the finder of the misplaced iPhone prototype as well. According to a source quoted by Wired Magazine, representatives claiming to be from the company have paid a visit to the Silicon Valley address of the college-age finder as early as last week. The discovery of the prototype phone was reportedly an “open secret” among the finder’s roommates and neighbors, as the phone was passed around as a curiosity. The people from Apple asked permission to search the finder’s residence last week, but were barred access by the finder’s roommate.
Major organizations have so far aired their dissent towards the search done on Gizmodo editor Jason Chen’s home Friday night by Silicon Valley’s Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT), of which Apple sits as a steering committee member. Four laptop computers, a server, removable storage devices and a digital camera were seized by REACT, citing in its search warrant that the property in question were “used as the means of committing a felony” or “tends to show that a felony has been committed”. Electronic Frontier Foundation’s civil liberties director Jennifer Granick has said that Chen, as a journalist, should be protected from a search warrant by both California state and federal laws even if he is under investigation for possessing stolen property. A counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association concurs, but says that the authorities involved may “have a different opinion as to whether or not this person is a journalist.” Lucy Dalgish, director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, puts it in strongly in an interview with CNET, saying “”This is such an incredibly clear violation of state and federal law it takes my breath away. The only thing left for the authorities to do is return everything immediately and issue one of hell of an apology.”
It should be noted that at the request of Apple, Gizmodo returned the prototype in question on April 19.