So there have been days when I've come home and been met with a surprise. For example, on more than one occasion I've arrived to find that my kitten (aka Satan) has turned over a couple of potted plants and shredded a good portion of wallpaper. But I have never, and I'm knocking wood here, come home to find law enforcement agents seizing my computers, external hard drives, digital cameras, cellphones, USB drives, and documents.
That's what faced Gizmodo editor Jason Chen last week when agents investigating the case of the misplaced iPhone-prototype that was purchased by Gizmodo last week. (Here's his account of what transpired.)
Putting aside the controversy of whether this whole thing is a staged Apple publicity stunt or not, let's think a bit about the legalities of raiding an employee's home to gather evidence in a case such as this. Whether the crime being investigated is receiving stolen goods or a trade secret violation, the warrant used to search the home may be illegal.
According to Wired:
"The federal Privacy Protection Act prohibits the government from seizing materials from journalists and others who possess material for the purpose of communicating to the public. The government cannot seize material from the journalist even if it's investigating whether the person who possesses the material committed a crime. Instead, investigators need to obtain a subpoena, which would allow the reporter or media outlet to challenge the request and segregate information that is not relevant to the investigation."
Many people are slamming Apple for its tactics at this point. Even though Apple may have initiated the investigation, they have no control over how the agents gathered the evidence. My concern is that an employee could have his personal belonging searched and seized because of an action taken by the company he works for. Kinda scary, huh?
Toni Bowers is the former 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.