Gizmodo editor Jason Chen’s house has been raided and his computers seized by California police in the latest twist to last week’s iPhone prototype saga.
The technology blog last week posted details and pictures of the as-yet-unreleased fourth-generation iPhone, saying it paid US$5000 for a prototype allegedly dropped by an Apple employee and passed on by a third party.
At the weekend a computer crime taskforce – the Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT) – reportedly searched Chen’s house, after having broken down his door. They took with them a MacBook, MacBook Pro, iPad, iPhone, digital camera and a whole range of other tech gear.
The team had a warrant issued by a Superior Court judge in San Mateo County indicating that the computers and other devices may have been used to commit a felony. San Mateo County District Attorney spokesperson Steve Wagstaffe confirmed the authenticity of the warrant.
However, the legality of the search is now being questioned, with Gaby Darbyshire, the chief operating officer of Gawker Media (Gizmodo’s parent company,) writing to the police, saying: “A search warrant may not be validly issued to confiscate the property of a journalist”.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, similarly told LaptopMag: “There are both federal and state laws here in California that protect reporters and journalists from search and seizure for their news gathering activities. The federal law is the Privacy Protection Act and the state law is a provision of the penal code and evidence code. It appears that both of those laws may be being violated by this search and seizure.”
TechCrunch is now reporting that, in light of these shield laws, the District Attorney’s office is re-evaluating the situation.
Yahoo is also claiming that Apple is one of 25 companies that sit on the REACT taskforce’s ‘steering committee’. The REACT spokesperson has yet to respond to the claims, and Apple remains silent on the matter.
Whether Apple is involved in the search on such a level is purely speculative at this stage. However, the police involvement is making it look far less like the whole story was a clever marketing stunt from Cupertino.