Why Gizmodo could be in deep doo doo over outing of Apple’s 4G iPhone prototype

invisibleSHIELD case for iPad“For those who don’t get why Gizmodo is in deep trouble, imagine if the iPhone prototype was a new model Honda about to be released,” Les Posen blogs. “Imagine our test driver pulls over and runs into a bar because he desperately needs a restroom. As he asks the bartender where to go, he inadvertently leaves his car keys, with car registration ID, on the counter.”

Then imagine that “another patron has picked them up,” Posen writes. “Let’s imagine for a moment the patron glances at the keys, and notes the car registration number. He looks through the bar window and matches car to keys. But it’s a most unusual looking car. Let’s now imagine the patron is something of a car afficionado and knows a disguised new model when he sees one. What to do?”

Posen asks, “Does he call out in the bar, ‘Hey anyone lose a set of keys?’ or ‘Hey, who owns the funny looking car out there – I think these are your keys.’ Or does he simply hand the keys to the bartender saying, ‘I found these on the floor?'”

None of the above.

“If we are to take the Gizmodo line, having identified the car as say a Honda (which has research facilities nearby), he instead rings Honda headquarters’ 800 number to report he has the keys to a some funny looking Honda, who, as secretive as Apple, has no idea about any research car out in the wild, but will get back to him anyway,” Posen writes. “Our key finding patron then goes to the car, uses the key to open it (perhaps it’s a new fangled electronic opening device too) and locates the driver’s wallet and driver’s license with picture ID on the front seat. So he knows now the identity of the driver.”

Posen writes, “But instead of going back inside the bar to locate the driver, he drives the car home, where he removes all the disguising devices, takes pictures, and emails various car magazines with a potential scoop. He caused no damage to the car, used the keys to start it, and drove it without breaking any road laws, such as speeding or going through a stop sign or a one-way street the wrong way. And he didn’t hot wire the car, but used the rightful key. (At this point, it should be dawning on some readers that he has in fact stolen the car, even if he used the right key, no?)”

“Soon enough, an edgy car review website announces they have all the goodies on Honda’s next Accord (one of the US’s best selling cars), and here are the teardown pictures of its insides and outsides,” Posen writes. “And they tell the world they paid $250,000 to obtain the car (even though it had been mooted to sell for about $30,000)… And that, dear reader, is what Gizmodo, Jason Chen, and the mystery iPhone finder did, on Gizmodo’s own admission.”

Posen writes, “Apart from the initial theft, and receiving stolen goods, there is [also] the problem of publication of trade secrets. “

Much more in the full article – recommended – here.


  1. whatever. The story is from the wrong point of view. The person that found the car didn’t take the pictures, he drove it home and then put the damn thing for sale on craigslist. A buyer, having recognized it’s no ordinary car works out terms based on the sellers story that he did indeed “find” it and did in fact try to locate the owner.

    The person that is in trouble is the db that found the phone in the bar and sold it to Gizmodo. When I sell my old iPhone on ebay, do I need to show my original purchase receipt in order to prove that I did not in fact steal it? No.

    Story is from the wrong POV. Gizmodo is clean, the other guy is screwed.

  2. I love that analogy. I think it fits it to a T.

    That said, Apple is so secretive and OCD control freakish about their media efforts, I don’t believe there is any way they would intentionally leak something in this way. It gives them no control, and that just isn’t Apple. Apple is control.

  3. @Realtorben

    Sorry but you’re wrong.

    No you may not have to show proof of ownership to sell an item but if in fact it was stolen then youre trafficking in stolen goods.

    It’s amazing how so many people don’t get it.

  4. Well that is the worst analogy I’ve ever heard. Haha the stories don’t match up in the least bit. Not that I agree with what Gizmodo did, but that just isn’t even close to a good way to explain it…

  5. Gizmodo should have taken the high road. It was the right thing to do and they would have been rewarded in so many other ways. Not the least would have been the face saving angle. What price a scoop? Perhaps Apple would have rewarded them with several legal scoops not to mention the feel goods from doing the right thing, tsk tsk.

  6. @REALTORben, I think you are partially mistaken.

    Point 1. The person didn’t place the “unknown” item in a general place like “craigslist” and have Gizmodo spot it. He/she went directly to the electronics blogs. That implies knowledge of what the item could be.

    Point 2. Any journalist should know what is announced and what isn’t in his/her field of reporting. Thats what they do. Buying something known to be unreleased, from a third party not involved with the manufacturer should automatically flag this item as most likely stolen. The reporters in this case are not dumb lay people. They know what a cheap chinese knock off looks like vs a real thing. During the the (what I believe to be illegal) transaction with the seller, they almost certainly knew they weren’t looking at a fake, and paid money for the item that would have obviously not been the property of the sellers. That puts Gizmodo in the wrong and pretty much jives with this analogy.

  7. It’s all Honda’s fault. Their cars are too flashy, but everybody knows they aren’t real cars. Nope. That’s why I drive a Toyota, because everyone drives a Toyota. I believe all Toyotas should be beige. All Toyotas should be Camry models withbthe same engine – that way, we can all follow the Toyota standard. That will make you acceptable in corporations.

    Honda had it coming to ’em. They got too secretive, too flashy, withe their fancy Formula One engines and bright shiny colors. So I’m with the guy who used the keys to find the owner. He had a right to publish those photos.

    Die, Honda, die! Die! Die!

    PS. Does that warped argument sound familiar?

  8. @ REALTORben

    Actually if your buying it and you know the car is obviously stolen, then you are also at fault. You don’t get to say he was a criminal and therefore I am shielded from the law. This is why fencing is illegal. Its also why pawn shops get id’s from folks when receiving jewelry. The pawnshop if it doesn’t take care could lose the money if it doesn’t take proper precautions.

    Whats worse is Gizmodo then proceeded to make a profit on its ill gotten gain. It used the stolen object to garner viewers etc.

    Gizmodo is fubar as well, especially if they helped him concoct his story. Why do you think other tech mags turned it down. Their legal counsel told them too.

  9. Following the trail: Who was contacted at Apple ? What was said to Apple exactly ? Was there any followup ? How long before the device was offered to Gizmodo ? What did Gizmodo say to the finder of the device before the price was paid ?

    Answers to these questions should show the intent of the parties involved.

  10. REALTORben,

    Gizmodo can claim they didn’t know what they were buying for $5,000, but anyone with even half a brain knows they are lying.

    They knew what it was, but they paid for it, took it apart, and published everything they possibly could anyway.

    It’s like any semi-knowledgeable person buying an iPhone for $25 from a NYC street vendor. They start it up, make sure it’s a real iPhone, pay $25, take it home and wipe it, jailbreak it, use it, and, if ever questioned by police, claimed they thought it was a fake and didn’t know it was stolen.

    Liars. Gizmodo is going to try to lie their way out of the mess they put themselves into.

    How about we don’t cheer for the liars if they succeed in weaseling out of it this time?

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