NetworkWorld: Apple “Looking For A Public Execution” Over iPhone
Network World doesn't really give anyone a free pass in the iPhone kerfuffle. But Apple gets the worst of it and perhaps takes the biggest hit if there is one, as it has the most to lose brand-wise.
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.
There's more at link, along with this criticism of authorities and a scenario where everyone might have gotten what they wanted without risk of breaking any laws – hindsight being 20/20, perhaps.
According to Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Jennifer Granick, the cops blew it by obtaining a warrant to search Chen's apartment instead of a subpoena. The latter is required under federal and state laws when questioning journalists, so media organizations can challenge the order in front of a judge before the source materials are confiscated. Do these laws still apply in a criminal case? That's unclear.
"John Phoe," of course, blew it by demanding cash for a gadget he clearly did not own. The smart play would have been to offer his story to Gizmodo for $5,000 — take the thing apart, snap photos, write up his conclusions, possibly under the guidance of a professional gadget monger — and return the lost device to Apple. There's no law against that, as far as I know.