Should Apple institute ‘kill switch’ for stolen iPods?

“With police urging iPod users to be wary of would-be muggers in the face of what some call an ‘epidemic’ of thefts, questions are being raised about whether manufacturers could be doing more to secure the devices,” Matt Hartley reports for The Globe and Mail.

“While iPod maker Apple Inc., has moved in recent years to help customers secure the data on their music players and the company’s popular iPhone, some observers wonder whether the manufacturers are exploiting available technology to combat gadget theft,” Hartley reports. “If the company were provided with a list of serial numbers from stolen devices by police, the argument is that the company could either block those devices from accessing iTunes -preventing the user of the stolen device from updating or adding music – or possibly even track the user’s location using the computer’s IP address.”

“Last year, the U.S. news program Dateline conducted an investigation into iPod thefts and how difficult it would be for Apple to track stolen devices. The reporters “lost” 20 new iPods around the U.S. which included special software that allowed the Dateline crew to record the personal information of whoever registered the device. The crew were eventually able to track down 12 of the 20 iPods,” Hartley reports.

“However, some analysts say that with more than 100 million iPods sold since the device first came on the market in 2001, it may be too costly and time-consuming for the company to track stolen devices,” Hartley reports.The company could also be opening itself up to liability or privacy concerns if it were, for example, to shut down a legitimate iPod by mistake.”

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Brawndo Drinker” for the heads up.]

MacDailyNews Take: Just image the lawsuits.

24 Comments

  1. Apple could set this up so that only the registered owner of an iPod or iPhone could authorize the use of the kill switch. If it did so this would be a good feature.

  2. Personally, it makes more sense to me to make bricking/tracking software available to the iPod purchaser for a nominal fee. Think of it as insurance, even if it doesn’t guarantee the iPod’s retrieval.

    I would especially want to be able to brick my iPhone if it were stolen.

    It shouldn’t be Apple’s responsibility to make the iPod/iPhone theft-proof; though as MDN pointed out on the weekend, Apple should educate users not to keep the ONLY copy of their music and videos on their iPod, especially considering how cheap hard drives and blank DVDs are!

  3. how about a pop up that mentions a reward if returned EVERY time the thief trys using it? Each person can log into their own itunes account and enter how much reward they want to offer.

  4. Ottawa Mark:

    There is absolutely no way any data on any iPod could be the ONLY copy of some content. Every iPod (and iPhone) will contain either the entire copy, or a subset, of owner’s iTunes library. The only way you could put data on an iPod is through your computer. An iPhone (and iPod touch) running the updated software can buy and download music over WiFi or EDGE/3G, thus creating an only copy of that music (until the next sync with the mother ship), but all other iPods CANNOT possibly have the only copy of music/video.

    Fee-based tracking software sounds like a reasonable idea. You pay a little extra and get some software that allows you to brick/track that iPod if it’s stolen. That would make sense.

  5. I know one way for an instant security boost: alphanumeric passcodes to unlock your iPhone and iPod touch. It’s much easier to crack a four digit number than the eight character combo of letters and numbers I’m ready to use.

    That’s part of the beauty of a full QWERTY touch keyboard that can pop up at anytime. iPhone software designers seemed to have had the pre-touch iPod on the brain where a simple four digit code was the least painful for its clickwheel.

  6. If a registered owner signs up for and pays extra for the protection/insurance, then yes. The program can pay for itself and maybe even make a small profit from the fees like iTunes music and the app store.

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