Apple's Lost iPhone: Recapping a PR Debacle

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Apple's Lost iPhone: Recapping a PR Debacle
Another Apple employee has lost another iPhone prototype in a bar, in an event similar to last year's iPhone 4 debacle. But this time, the incident has put Apple and the San Francisco Police Department under scrutiny for searching a man's home.

Here's a recap of what happened:

In late July, an Apple employee lost an iPhone prototype at Cava 22, a tequila bar in San Francisco's Mission district. CNet broke the story a month later, reporting that Apple traced the phone to a single-family home in San Francisco's Bernal Heights neighborhood.

San Francisco police and Apple investigators visited the home together, and a man at the home gave police permission to search the premises, CNet reported. The search turned up empty. Strangely, a police spokesman told SFWeekly shortly after that there were no records of the incident.

SFWeekly then got a slightly different version of the story, after speaking with the man at the home, 22 year-old Sergio Calderón. He said that four men and two women came to his house and presented themselves as police officers. Calderón is an American-born citizen who lives with several family members, all in the United States legally, but he said one of the men threatened him. "One of the officers is like, 'Is everyone in this house an American citizen?' They said we were all going to get into trouble," Calderón told SFWeekly.

Calderón let the visitors search his home, his car and his computer's hard drive, and confirmed that one of the visitors offered $300 to return the device. One man also provided contact information, which SFWeekly traced to an Apple employee named Anthony Colon, whose LinkedIn profile lists him as a senior investigator at Apple.

Apple's Lost iPhone: Recapping a PR Debacle
After that story broke, the San Francisco Police Department finally confirmed that four plainclothes officers did, in fact, assist Apple in a visit to Calderón's home. The officers stayed outside the home while Apple employees conducted a search, Lieutenant Troy Dangerfield, a San Francisco Police Department spokesman, told SFWeekly.

Calderón then clarified that the two people who entered the home didn't specifically say that they were police officers. However, he was under the impression that all six visitors were police, and said he never would have allowed a search if he had known otherwise.

So here's where we are now: Police plan to speak with Calderón themselves. The department will only investigate further if Calderón cooperates and shares more information. "If the person is reporting that people misrepresented themselves as San Francisco police officers, that's something we will need to investigate," Dangerfield told SFWeekly. "We take people representing themselves as police officers very seriously."

Whether Apple employees broke the law by impersonating police officers or not, Calderón's account of the incident is troubling. It suggests that police officers used intimidation and threats to help a private company gain entry to someone's home. That alone deserves scrutiny.

Apple hasn't commented on the incident, but PC Mag has spotted a pair of job listings for "New Product Security Managers," with the tasks of "overseeing the protection of, and managing risks to, Apple's unreleased products and related intellectual property."

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