Police Computer Crime Task Force Probes Gizmodo/iPhone 4G Prototype Incident

A local police task force is probing Apple’s lost-iPhone 4G prototype to see if there are grounds for criminal charges to be filed. The probe revolves around whether any local or state laws were broken when Gizmodo purchased an iPhone 4G prototype earlier in April after the device was accidentally left in a San Jose bar.

According to CNET, The Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team of Santa Clara County, also known as REACT, is looking into the incident, which unfolded earlier in April. The site reported that it is not yet known if the probe is aimed at Gizmodo, its parent company Gawker, or the person who found the phone and then sold it to Gizmodo for US$5,000.

Gizmodo published videos of the device, which showed a new form factor and new materials for the front and back of the device. The site also acknowledged that it paid for the device, and returned it to Apple after the company’s legal department demanded its return.

A myriad of laws might apply to the situation, including a 138 year-old California law that makes it a criminal act not to return property known to belong to another party. Various federal laws could also apply, as might certain protections offered the press at both the state and federal level.

A legal contact pointed out to The Mac Observer, however, that a police investigation suggests that Apple did report the matter to the police as a possible crime.

REACT is a task force that works with local tech firms in Silicon Valley. CNet noted that Apple worked with REACT when it was discovered an employee had sold more than $100,000 of stolen Macs through eBay.