Let’s get back to my original question: what would I have done?
We’ll never know for sure. But I suspect that I would have thought very hard and then gone with my first impulse: return the phone to Apple. If it’s been stolen, then Apple is the victim of a crime and the ethical answer is to side with the victim.
(Given that this is a new smartphone and not a mechanism for electrocuting any iPhone user who attempts to jailbreak their device.)
If I was told that this phone had been found in a bar…I would have assumed that it had been stolen from Apple. Same result.
And if the “finder” wanted some sort of fee for this device, then I would have brought law enforcement into the discussion. That kind of situation is so shady that no journalist with an ounce of sense would come anywhere near it. Even if you could get past the professional ethical dilemma and your ethical dilemma as a human being…look, smart people aren’t confused about how to react when someone tries to hand them a knife wrapped in a torn and bloody UPS uniform and asks them to hide it for a couple of weeks. I don’t mind these problems that you have to discuss with your editor. But I try to avoid the sort of problems that result in a conversation with a criminal defense attorney.So. I say once again that Gizmodo has a lot of explaining to do. Even if they’re completely innocent of any wrongdoing, they need to resolve this part of the story.
I highly encourage you to read this whole article. Andy has always been my favorite tech journalist, and articles like this one, posted on his personal blog, are the reason why.
I don’t always agree with the guy 100%, but the man just has class. And he’s got a much better gift for words than I do.
And on this issue of the stolen Apple prototype iPhone, I have to agree completely. Gizmodo and Engadget have almost certainly behaved unethically, and they should be made to explain themselves.
Note to John Gruber: This is how you politely criticize your peers in the tech press without sounding like an insecure, petty egomaniac. I like what you have to write most of the time, but the main thing keeping you from greatness on the level of Ihnatko is your tendency to let your pride get the better of you. You just got mentioned favorably by Andy, and deservedly so, for some good work on your coverage of this topic. Don’t let that go to your head. Try to remember it next time you are tempted to slam bloggers on other sites for no good reason, other than to prove to the world that you’re always right about everything.