Saturday, May 08, 2010

The Corporate Cops of Apple

There is an interesting technology story doing the rounds: an Apple guy leaves a new prototype iphone in a bar. Somebody finds it and sells it to an online technology blog, Gizmondo, who report all the new gadgets that it has. Blah blah. Except that Apple goes mental and gets the cops - who bust this bloggers door in like they were raiding the house of some right-wing terror cell. OTT to say the least. But that's not the most disturbing part of it...
So, what happened? This week, Chen's house was raided by officers from California's Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT), a special task force of police officers and federal agents created to combat computer-related crimes -- and which just happens to have Apple on its steering committee. The cops took all of Chen's computer equipment.

Meanwhile, the San Mateo County district attorney is considering whether to bring charges against Chen. It all hinges around whether California's journalist shield law covers bloggers. Well, speaking as someone who was an investigative reporter for one of the nation's top 10 newspapers: Of course it does.

This is appalling. As Instapundit uber-blogger Glenn Reynolds has rightly noted, this is basically "gangland politics," with one side getting to use to the police as its muscle. He's also correct in noting that neither the police nor Apple would ever have tried this against, say, the San Jose Mercury-News (I know because I worked there).

As for Apple, it has been unquestionably the most important and exciting technology company of the last dreary decade in tech, and bless it for that. But big companies are inherently totalitarian (which should give pause to boosters of the current administration's corporatist leanings) and none more so than Apple.

Welcome to the era of state paid, but corporate rule, policing.

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