Cops raid home of Gizmodo blogger over leaked iPhone

How far is too far in search of a juicy tech scoop? A Gizmodo blogger is finding out, as police raided his home after the blog received a lost -- or stolen -- iPhone prototype, and published photos and information about the device.

Police "entered [Gizmodo editor] Jason Chen's home without him present, seizing four computers and two servers," according to a report on Gizmodo, which published the search warrant and Chen's account of the raid.

Gizmodo also published a response by Gaby Darbyshire, COO and counsel for Gizmodo publishers Gawker Media. Darbyshire argues that the raid was a violation of Shield Laws, which bar police from requiring journalists to divulge the sources of their stories.

The San Mateo District Attorney's Office paused its investigation, pending review of the Shield Law claims, according to TechCrunch's Jason Kincaid.

But this might not be a shield-law case at all, says Business Insider's Henry Blodgett. The Shield Law doesn't apply if Chen himself is suspected of breaking the law, not protecting someone else who broke the law.

"Journalist shield laws are about journalists being able to protect sources who may have committed crimes. They’re not a license for journalists to commit crimes themselves," Daring Fireball's John Gruber explains.

Authorities in San Mateo, Calif., are considering criminal charges against Gizmodo, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

And what about Gray Powell, the employee who reportedly lost the iPhone? What should Apple do with that guy? Security blogger Bruce Schneier says that depends on Apple's security policies, and how well Apple has enforced them in the past. If Powell violated explicit Apple policy, he should be disciplined or even fired. On the other hand, says Schneier:

[I]f Apple doesn't have clear-cut rules, if Powell wasn't prohibited from taking the phone out of his office, if engineers routinely ignore or bypass security rules and -- as long as nothing bad happens -- no one complains, then Apple needs to understand that the system is more to blame than the individual. Most corporate security policies have this sort of problem. Security is important, but it's quickly jettisoned when there's an important job to be done. A common example is passwords: people aren't supposed to share them, unless it's really important and they have to. Another example is guest accounts. And doors that are supposed to remain locked but rarely are. People routinely bypass security policies if they get in the way, and if no one complains, those policies are effectively meaningless.

For a lighter look, the humor magazine McSweeney's has an imaginary apology letter from the guy who lost the iPhone:

If I could give back those last five beers, I would do it in a heartbeat. I don't know why I let that girl look at it. That was a total disregard of our phones before hos mantra. Worst mistake of my life. I should have never taken the prototype out of its case, or taken the case from the protective cover, or taken the protective cover out of the lockbox. I should have never taken the lockbox out of the safe and I definitely should never have signed the contract that requires your right testicle if you lose the phone. It was a pretty painful morning, and I'm not referring to a hangover, though that didn't help.

And Dilbert weighs in.

Mitch Wagner is a freelance technology journalist and social media marketing consultant. Follow him on Twitter: @MitchWagner.

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