Gizmodo has always been one of the sites I like to take a look at on a daily basis, I like their blend of humor and hard tech news, and I like that they are comfortable in their First Amendment rights dealing with the freedoms enjoyed by The Press.
However, there are moral issues to consider and in my view of the world, morality trumps freedoms every time. I’m not talking about a set of rules dictated by religion, though that is often a good place to start, I’m talking about innate morality, if there is such a thing. Morals that you know are right because you would want others to treat you that way if the situation was against you. Just because we have a right to do something does not mean we should, and if we have to make a decision on what is best to do, then the question becomes a moral dilemma and the answer is not hard to know, but sometimes hard to follow.
What has me on a soapbox jabbering about morality is Gizmodo’s recent article revealing what is believed be a prototype of the next generation of iPhone hardware from Apple.
Apparently, someone with access to Apple prototype hardware lost the device, someone else found the device, it wound up at Gizmodo, and Gizmodo has confirmed the loss with Apple.
Gizmodo has had the device for more than a week and has even gone so far as to examine the inside. They’ve documented what they’ve found and presented it on their website.
Is it interesting? Sure.
Is it earth-shattering? No.
Is dissecting the device and reporting what you’ve found to the public a morally responsible thing to do? I don’t think so.
Should they give the phone back? Absolutely. Frankly, I’m wondering why they haven’t given it back already?
First of all, it’s Apple’s property. There’s no mistaking that it is Apple’s property, and Gizmodo went so far as to validate that it is Apple’s property. The right thing to do is to give it back just as you found it. Of course, there were tangible gains to be had by Gizmodo if they held on to it, and that’s the dilemma. Yet, I contend that there really was no dilemma, and that there really was only one “right” thing to do.
This is no different from finding a wallet with a thousand bucks and a driver’s license in it. Do you pocket the cash and toss the wallet in a trash bin, or do you make at least a reasonable effort to return it all, loot, license, and leather, to its rightful owner?
Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but I suspect that a little less than half of us would return the wallet intact. The reasons for doing so will be as varied as the people doing the decent deed, but no matter what the reason given it will all point to one basic truth: The wallet does not belong to us and we know to whom it does belong to.
Those of you who’ll fault us do-gooders for doing good would do well to hope you never lose something valuable and be forced to rely on the morals and kindness of strangers.
Such was the situation with Apple and Gizmodo.
It doesn’t matter that the tech world watches Apple with microscopic scrutiny, or that Apple is a multi-billion dollar high profile company and its CEO can, at times, seem as mad as Alice’s hatter. It makes no difference that Gizmodo is in the business of reporting the time, temperature, and velocity of Steve Jobs’ farts, or the ill-winds of other CEOs and their businesses. The plain and simple fact is that the device was found, Gizmodo came into possession of it, Gizmodo knew who it belonged to, and they should have returned it as soon as they knew what they had.
It doesn’t make for monumental site traffic, but it was the right this to do. Shame on Gizmodo for not doing it.