iPhone

Most embarrassed employee: The guy who left the iPhone prototype on a barstool

An Apple engineer leaves the prototype for the iPhone 4G on a barstool at a beer garden; it is then picked up by another customer and sold to Gizmodo. Who's to blame here?

By now most of you have heard the story about the Apple engineer who left the company's next generation iPhone (which is being called the iPhone 4G) on a barstool at a beer garden. He was field-testing the new device but when he left the bar, he absentmindedly left the device behind. It was picked up by another customer who proceeded to sell it to to Gizmodo for $5,000.

There are some who say that Apple is much too paranoid and secretive for something like this to have happened accidentally -- that perhaps the mistake was actually a publicity stunt. But, really, it's entirely plausible that some poor guy just made a dumb mistake. You can't help but feel his pain. It is perhaps the most publicly humiliating experience for an employee, especially considering that Gizmodo bloggers actually named the poor guy and posted his picture in one of their blogs.

No one knows yet how Apple will handle this. Supposedly, the employee went to his bosses when he first discovered his mistake so they were at least able to remotely disable the phone. But the hardware was still there, of course, for Gizmodo to examine.

So what do you think? Will they fire the guy? Should they fire him? I know you guys will have a lot to say on this, so let's get started.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

181 comments
The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

The home of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen has been raided by police, as the iPhone 4 battle turns ugly. On Friday night, police raided the home of Chen while he was out with his wife and seized six of his computers by order of a search warrant. The warrant was issued on the basis that Chen's apartment "was used as a means of committing a felony".

amulroya
amulroya

Would average Joe even know that it is a prototype and realize its value? He would probably just return it or sell it to somebody on the street for a few bucks (not $5000) if he were that kind of jerk.

The Management consultant
The Management consultant

I am willing to beleive it was left there on purpose so the press would give some free publicity to the new product launch...bit like Oracle and Opensolaris before pulling the unbreakable linux project.

laurel
laurel

Sorry , but I don't fall for the trick. This is just another way for a big company to create more hype around it's umcommong opperating system for the Apple iphone. I do not believe for one moment that the prototype was accidentally left unsecured. The "most embarrassed employee" has simply complied with the mission, that's all about it.

Alzie
Alzie

If you found a cell phone at the bar what would you do? Maybe give it to the bar in case the owner comes back? Hold the phone to see if the owner calls looking for it? Look in the phone book for the "home" or "ICE" entry and call that? If you lost your cell phone? Maybe call it to see if someone had picked it up and arrange to get it returned? Apparently Apple has contacted Gizmodo to pick up the iPhone.

K James
K James

They knew what they were buying. Personal morals just suck anymore.

crispydj
crispydj

The blame lies with Apple for letting the prototype leave the office premises, and the employee who was stupid or drunk to leave it on a bar stool.

amalsabaan
amalsabaan

It should be returned to Apple, he has no right to take it. Mistakes happens... poor thing

JohnOfStony
JohnOfStony

I would say the Apple employee's embarrassment pales into insignificance compared with the idiot at McAfee who released DAT file 5958 which has disabled tens of thousands of computers (or more) worldwide. Where I work we were lucky; we detected the cause early on when 2 PCs failed with near identical symptoms. We disabled updates on all computers that were still switched on and in total had to fix 9 PCs, but I'd hate to work for a company where all PCs are left on overnight with a coordinated McAfee antivirus update because this morning would be an IT wipeout.

vickaprili
vickaprili

The employee in question has made an error. He should not be sacked but a coaching opportunity exists. Why sack an engineer who is obviously at the cutting edge for your company and would probably end up working for a competitor!! Perhaps Apple should build in a feature so that if you are separated from your IPhone by say 3 metres or say 10 feet in imperial, it starts beeping.

iain.obrien
iain.obrien

As far as I understand things I think Apple should take most of the blame for this blunder. The Apple employee was at a bar and he was probably drunk. We've all left something behind in a bar after a few too many beers. The guy who picked up the phone waited around after the pub had closed to see if the owner would come back to claim it. He then contacted Apple employee's to report the phone and they denied it even existed. So, with a useless phone(after Apple remotely shut it down), he posted it up on ebay and Gizmodo bit, buying it. I don't think Gizmodo are in the wrong, as they contacted Apple regarding the phone and offering to return it. Apple decided to send them a letter demanding the phone back and, as I hear, are threatening Gizmodo with receipt of stolen property. It wasn't stolen, it was lost, and the finder tried to return it but Apple didn't believe him. Apple then tried to cover everything up by posting a few articles stating that the 4G was a fake and didn't exist. To me, that just makes them look more guilty and more credibility to the existance of the phone. I don't think the Apple employee should lose his job over this blunder. He correctly reported it missing to Apple and Apple ignored the finder when he contacted them.

fahdim
fahdim

Haha, poor guy. Seems like a publicity stunt to me. My sister is very kind. I am discussing this with her and she thinks he is just a human and if this was really a mistake, they shouldn't fire him.

jdspark2000
jdspark2000

...for Apple to think I dumb enough to fall for such an obvious publicity stunt. No one 'loses' prototype tech in such a way. Ever. Since Apple's fan base would buy an inflatable dart board so long as it had that logo on it then I'm not surprised the company treats it's customers as idiots. Look at the Ipad FFS! that's obviously missing features that will be introduced in the 2nd generation unit and Apple will expect current owners to go out an buy it to replace their 1st generation units. And you know what....they will...SHEEP.

ijusth
ijusth

no where near the most embarrassing thing that an employee could have done. I was told this story by someone and perhaps it is an urban legend but decide for yourself. There was a guy working for Lockheed. Carrying the blueprints for the F117 back before the stealth fighter was known to the world. Well this doofus left the briefcase on the chair while he went to the bathroom. Well an unattended briefcase in an aiarport is a possible bomb so the bomb squad was called and the case moved elsewhere. Well the guy returns and sees no case and calls HIS security. Well the security contacts the police and both they and the bomb squad arrive at the same time. They realize they are talking about the same thing. Long story short the guy is fired on the spot and not even paid the planefare to get home. Now that is embarrassed.

hshameem
hshameem

The guy should not be fired for a absent minded mistake.

.Martin.
.Martin.

the employee should get a slap on the wrist, because accidents do happen. he did the right thing by going to his boss. was it a publicity stunt? no, apple have enough already, they don't need to make their own.

mcswan454
mcswan454

Here's a copy of a reply I sent to Gizmodo expressing my opinion. No flames please, just one man's opinion. "Joel, I have only ONE problem with this Apple thing: If your comments about Apple's security are to be considered to have ANY weight, and Apple is as paranoid as stated in other articles, can you explain to me just HOW did this engineer get the phone out of the building to begin with? Either it WAS a field test - thereby a plant waiting to happen - OR the guy stole the bloody thing and should not now be employed! I don't know for certain what companies you've worked for but I am a former serviceman for both the US Navy and US Army. I've held security clearances, and thanks to my ability to keep my mouth shut (even when drunk), can get them reinstated should the need arise. I've got stories you'll only learn about after Freedom of Information Act makes them available. And you don't have to take my word for it: Believe it or not, my status as a Veteran is Public Knowledge. If this information is the result of R&D, and it gets out, would the impact be positive or negative? Sir, I believe you've been "had". The fact ALONE that the guy lost a new phone prototype, while intoxicated, would be enough to show him the gate. Would you continue to TRUST this guy with ANYTHING? He's already proven that he cannot be depended upon to even protect his job! It's called unreliability, and yes, it will cost you your employment. Or YOU could try something like this and get back to me. Or did we forget that he walked into the bar SOBER? Sir, I believe you've been "had".... M." (Edited for comment) Does anyone besides myself wonder how Apple was able to disable the phone (according to reports) and NOT know where it was physically? I'm pretty sure most any phone these days has GPS built in to locate the phone, unless it is specifically turned off... Mine does, and it's nothing like an iPhone.

ctelljohn
ctelljohn

looks like a prototype, so what's the big deal?

aemang
aemang

Are you Kidding me? This is some of the best FREE publicity Apple could ever get and as I said, it cost them zilch, notta, zero, goose egg. You can't beat free advertising. This whole thing could be a carefully executed publicity stunt.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

wanted this kept very secret, and a disgruntled employee got access to lift it and did this as a way of pissing them off just before he leaves them. That sort of thing has happened in the past, and will happen again in the future.

jck
jck

I feel really bad for the guy. But, my question is this: Does Gizmodo have the right to dissect anything it buys from a person who didn't have legal ownership of the device? That device is probably registered to Apple, Inc. and would be traceable. Personally, I think that Apple should sue Gizmodo for blatant destruction of their personal property. I like the fact that the tech has been openly divulged, but still. Apple does have rights in this, even tho an engineer made a mistake in field testing.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

They have gone way over the top with this. If this does infact stop the guy getting another job does he have some legal recourse by releasing his name?

touchdown_twc
touchdown_twc

It's like everything Apple, all screwed up and not worth the hassle!

mcswan454
mcswan454

Let me try to restate my issue. I'm an engineer for a company. My company decides to trust me to "field test" a prototype of a new device.... A) The device has all the features that users of prior versions have requested. B) I KNOW I can simulate in a lab more circumstances than the users may actually encounter with use. I've designed the phone to do things the person who owns it will NEVER realize. (Cracking phones to reveal their true capabilities IS an ongoing thing) C) It's a bloody phone! It needs to be able to make and receive calls. Any other features are for personal enjoyment. Say, a PSP you can call home with. D) If necessary, why NOT sign up a group of users to do the field test -- contracturally -- as they are more likely to provide me with useful information about the phone? We call this "beta testing". E) What could "field testing" do other than display the phone in use, to garner interest? Am I going to duck into a dark corner to use it so no one sees? I can do this in the lab, as NO ONE can get in there. F) The abilities of the phone will depend on the service of the cellular provider. If I can't make or receive a call, it's a "" paperweight (original expletive deleted). Other features do NOT matter! So I get drunk, and leave the bloody thing on a bar. What the HELL was it doing outside of it's case if I WEREN'T demonstrating it to others to gain interest? I've a bridge I'd like to sell, and I KNOW you want it. It's at a good price also. M.

Computer Dave
Computer Dave

All legal word-wrangling aside, if this was truly an accident then Apple would be in court yesterday pressing charges against Gizmodo and the person who sold it to them. Unless Apple persues legal action then the only logical conclusion was that this was all a big publicity stunt. And a cunning stunt, at that! Your move, Apple. ~Dave

gsveeb
gsveeb

If Apple were that secretive about it's unreleased products, not even the engineer would be allowed to leave the building with one.

aemang
aemang

How in the world can Apple beat the free advertsing they are receiving from this and the whole thing cost them zilch, notta, zero, goose egg. The was left by accident my hind end. This entire campaign was planned and you will never get me to believe oterwise.

jck
jck

In fact where I live, employees are not at liberty to discuss particulars about a fellow employee. My employer informs us all at orientation that any requests about who works here by mail, email, or telephone, should always be directed through Human Resources. I hope the guy can sue Gizmodo for a few million. That was a stupid thing to do on their part.

MikeG3b
MikeG3b

It'd seem that Gizmodo would be liable for damages by publicizing the item. Although they're not bound by non-disclosure, it'd be hard for them to document that they were entitled to profit from disclosing the item's technology. I'm sure Apple has legions of lawyers on payroll charged with protecting Apple's copyrights and intellectual property. I agree that the absence of a well-publicized lawsuit is defacto proof that the "lost" iPhone prototype was a stunt. Cunning stunt, indeed!

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

A-well-a everybody's heard about the bird B-b-b-bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word A-well-a bird, bird, bird, the bird is the word A-well-a bird, bird, bird, well the bird is the word A-well-a bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word A-well-a bird, bird, bird, well the bird is the word A-well-a bird, bird, b-bird's the word A-well-a bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word A-well-a bird, bird, bird, well the bird is the word A-well-a bird, bird, b-bird's the word A-well-a don't you know about the bird? Well, everybody knows that the bird is the word! A-well-a bird, bird, b-bird's the word A-well-a...

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

But, he'll lose if the information is factual. In a lawsuit the truth is the best defense.

Cerebral*Origami
Cerebral*Origami

However by reverse engineering the item an publicizing its components they may be liable for some form of theft of intellectual property.

bryantwalley
bryantwalley

A-well-a bird, bird, bird, the bird is the word A-well-a bird, bird, bird, well the bird is the word A-well-a bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word A-well-a bird, bird, bird, well the bird is the word A-well-a bird, bird, b-bird's the word A-well-a bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word A-well-a bird, bird, bird, well the bird is the word A-well-a bird, bird, b-bird's the word A-well-a don't you know about the bird?

Jye75
Jye75

Or you simply stole that quote after hearing it from someone else. Either way, get over yourself. You aren't impressing anyone here. Last post in response to your idiocy.

Kam Guerra
Kam Guerra

ya , ok, that one stung, I'm not gonna lie on that one. I took that one right in the testicles. "Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo,"

Jye75
Jye75

You still, in all of your drivel, have YET to make a valid point in ANY of your statements. Goodbye, jackass.

Kam Guerra
Kam Guerra

You live in the land of make believe. You could always hop the trolly to leave.

Jye75
Jye75

Are you kidding me? I haven't been wrong once in this thread. Kam, once again, I will point out that yes, it this particular case, SO FAR as the legal system is concerned, no crime has been committed. You seem to think that everyone is wrong except you, which might be true if we were all arguing that this particular instance was a crime. HOWEVER, as you conveniently overlook (as usual), most of us are referring to the law in general to refute what you say about the law in general. Do you understand, or do I need to put this in a way that a toddler can understand?

Kam Guerra
Kam Guerra

There's no claim from either Apple or the ADA/DA stating theft. So it wasn't stolen. Which means you're wrong, again.

Jye75
Jye75

in criminal cases, the State Attorney makes the prosecuting decision. However, if the plaintiff does not cooperate, then most likely, the case will not be pursued as it is more difficult to win without that cooperation. Of course, if this was a civil case, then you would be correct, no plaintiff, no case. But it would be criminal, so you are wrong!

jck
jck

Only requires that the person acquired the property through non-legal means and kept its rightful owner from having possession. That's "stolen" under the law in CA. Need proof? Here: [i][b]California Petty Theft -- Penal Code 484 & 488 PC[/b] California law defines theft as the unlawful taking of another's property. California petty theft will be charged when that property is valued at $400 or less. The crime (which is most commonly based on a shoplifting offense) can be committed in one of four ways: 1. by larceny (stealing and carrying away another's property without consent. This is the most typical form of petty theft, usually seen in a shoplifting prosecution.) 2. by trick (for example, changing the price tag on an item to pay a lesser amount for it) 3. by embezzlement (this occurs when you decide to deprive another of something after it was entrusted to you. For example, if your boss, the owner of the retail store that you work for, gives you some merchandise to put in the storage room -- and instead you put it in your bag to take home -- you have embezzled the merchandise), and 4. by false pretenses (making false representations to obtain possession and title to money, labor, personal property or land). [/i] Under paragraph 1, the individual who took the device without Apple's consent is guilty under California law of theft. Depending on how much the iPhone 4G is considered to be worth, it would probably be moved up to grand theft since it is a prototype and worth considerably more than $400. You wanted proof. There's your proof. Picking up someone else's property and carrying it off is not legal in CA. Thank you.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

that is detrimental about them and they claim you lied - your defence is to prove you didn't lie. The police blotter reports where they name people - the people are usually criminals being named (which I did say was OK) or they're victims who've given the police permission to use their names. Picking someone out of a police line up is NOT a public naming of them - but it's also covered on the basis of identifying a criminal. There is a lot of precedence in many jurisdictions, where victims have told the police and media not to give out their names, and some one has ignored that - only to be sued and lost the following court case for breach of privacy.

Jye75
Jye75

For the last time, Kam, NO ONE said it WAS stolen... Gizmodo's purchase of the device for $5K with the knowledge that it was Apple's yet-to-be released iPhone, indicates that they knew it was not legally being sold to them by its rightful owner, and therefore could be charged with receiving stolen property. Maybe your understanding of the English language is not up to par, but you keep going back to the same "prove it was stolen" bit, and not one person here has said that it was indeed stolen, other than in the way that finding it and selling it while knowing it belonged to someone else, is a type of theft. A car is in the parking lot with the keys in the ignition, can it be legally taken by the first person to open the door? No. If you think it can, try jumping into a police car when the driver has stopped to pursue a perpetrator on foot... then get back to me.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

First it wouldn't be slander, it would be libel because it's in print. By your definition the weekly police blotter column in the newspaper is libel. It would also be slander to pick someone out of a police line-up as well.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

civil defamation or slander case that proving your claim can save you. If you give out information you had no right to give out, or publicly name someone, who is not famous or a criminal, without their approval or some other legally valid permission to do so, they can sue your arse off. - and win. no one has the right to just name anyone publicly for anything.

Kam Guerra
Kam Guerra

I'd guess that Apple is cautious about calling it stolen, calling out "result of theft", or anything else since typically the courts tend to favor individual rights rather than corporate "rights".

jck
jck

In my state, employment information is protected in the private sector. Legally, the duly-appointed representative of the organization is supposed to confirm/deny your employment. There are exceptions to that, such as public sector employees records being public, and red acted records which protect current and former law enforcement, circuit court, and elected positions.

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