So, my blog went down for a few days. Dreamhost’s automatic scanning script detected something wrong, and disabled it. All I got in the error message was a warning to update all of my software/plugins (which everything was, except for two plugins that went out of date while the site was down), and to check the server-side code for malicious modifications. Despite WordPress being a giant hideous PHP beast, I went through it yesterday, and everything looked just about like I’d expect. I think it was triggered because I had an unencrypted/uncompressed backup copy in a subdirectory with a much older version of WordPress. I’m not sure if it was accessible, but I deleted it anyway to prevent future occurrences.
So, Gizmodo is apparently made up of jackasses. As anyone who’s read this is already well aware, they somehow acquired a next-generation iPhone prototype. As we all know, Apple’s ass is squeezed so tight even radio signals can’t get out, so it’s clear that Gizmodo having the device in the first place wasn’t very much on the up and up. That much was clear as soon as I read the original article.
However, they then upped their jack-assery by outing the Apple engineer whose phone it was. Now, don’t get me wrong: I have no doubt that eventually Apple was going to get their hardware back, and a simple serial number check would tell them to whom they gave it. His life at Apple, likely, was ended. That sucks for him, cause people who work at Apple tend to like it, in spite of the draconian restrictions on talking to anyone about what you do (I know people who work at NSA who are allowed to talk more about what they do for a living). Of course, that much was his own fault.
The problem for me, though, is that all of that is an internal Apple affair. In no way was it journalism to out a guy that was about to get canned. It might be a human-interest story about how evil Apple is that they’d fire someone for losing a prototype; but that might happen at any company, it’s just that much more certain at Apple. And that argument is even flawed, because if Gizmodo had simply been up front with Apple and returned the device, there might not have even been an issue. The human-interest argument, broken as it clearly is, also assumes that they were doing it for some sort of altruistic purpose.
Reading through their repeated posts, it sounds like they’re trying to be funny while fingering the guy. Let me clue you in, Gizmodo: Apple isn’t going to say “well, clearly it’s this guy’s fault so we’ll just let it slide.” The whole thing reads like the following story: a nerdy guy is encouraged by his smooth-talking friends to steal his dad’s porno stash so they can all beat off in the tool shed later; the nerdy guy gets caught; the smooth-talking friends say, while snickering, “Well, shucks, Mr. Jobs, poor old Gray just made a mistake any of us could make, if we were trying to STEAL PORN MAGS TO BEAT OFF, golly goshes.” They act smugly about the entire affair, but the problem is that this wasn’t some small-time misunderstanding, and Steve Jobs doesn’t seem like the kindly hearted dad-next-door who doesn’t want to spank you with the full force of Johnny Law.
I do not like Apple’s methods of locking down all their research, the entire environment of their computers/devices, or much of anything about Apple (aside from the physical appearance and software stability of their computers, which you have to admit is sexy). However, it’s their prerogative. As a consumer, the only way you get to vote on this is with your dollars. They don’t do anything wrong legally by walling off their ecosystem, and it’s not a bout of journalistic prudence to crack open an illicitly-acquired prototype. It’s potential theft and destruction of property charges. And as much as I dislike Apple, and would relish the opportunity to know what the next iteration of their software/hardware does with out the “Apple Event” Steve Jobs/media circle jerk, it’s the way they do things, and the way they’re allowed to do things.
I’m not sure what the statutes will say about any of this legally, since the device has now been returned to Apple without invoking any law enforcement thus far. However, Apple has (to my estimation) the following possible recourses:
- Do Nothing – Unlikely, to me. They rely on extreme secrecy, and if a breach of that secrecy goes unpunished, other people will be willing to say “screw it” in the future.
- Cockblock Gizmodo – This seems almost a given. While other media outlets are invited to the Apple Events to get first cracks at live-blogging/tweeting new hardware and software releases, Gizmodo may have to sit outside in the rain and wait for scraps in the trash can left over from more favored pets. Note that the following options are still available in conjunction with this one.
- Red Tape – Assuming there’s nothing that Apple can eventually legally do, they can still squash Gizmodo with long-term legal problems, overmatching them with a legal team big enough to staff an aircraft carrier, as big corporations are known for having, tying them up until their funds completely dry up and they collapse.
- Lawsuit – Like the previous one, but successful: assuming they can prove that they lost R&D money, or eventual sales due to less impact at their eventually unveiling, or anything resulting from a yet-to-be-proven-illegal “transaction” (read: theft) of a prototype, that could land Gizmodo in spicy legal waters which could prove disastrous: from major fines all the way up to jail time.
I do not like being on Apple’s side on this. If it had stopped at “they published a story which damages Apple’s bottom line,” I’d wince and look away, feeling badly as they were eviscerated and/or annihilated at Cupertino’s hands; I might even write an objection at Apple’s shitty tactics (I did say I don’t like them). But the arrogance and flippant way in which they tossed the engineer’s name out there, while still protecting the guy who sold them the phone “as a source,” like they were some sort of legitimate news organization that just happened to act like guilty 15-year-olds, makes me hope for the worst.