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8/2/2007
06:16 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
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Rant: Brilliant Journalists Prove That If You Leave Your iPod Lying Around, It'll Get Stolen

Demonstrating that the spirit of investigative journalism is not dead, Dateline did an expose about how, if you leave your iPod lying around unattended in public, it'll get stolen. I'm sure there's a Pulitzer Prize in this for Dateline. Because we could never have figured that out on our own.

Demonstrating that the spirit of investigative journalism is not dead, Dateline did an expose about how, if you leave your iPod lying around unattended in public, it'll get stolen. I'm sure there's a Pulitzer Prize in this for Dateline. Because we could never have figured that out on our own.

The intrepid journalists captured iPod thieves in action on tape. The transcript of the report contains several paragraphs of logic about where to leave your iPod if you want it to get stolen. Finally, the brilliant investigators conclude they were most likely to get their iPods stolen if they left the iPods "some place unattended."

I can just imagine the agonizing discovery process that went into that conclusion. First, they stuffed their iPod into their underwear. Nobody stole it. Then they put it in the freezer, next to the leftover pizza. Nobody stole it. Then, they buried it in the backyard. The dog dug it up and reburied it, but it wasn't actually stolen. Then, came the "Eureka!" moment -- just leave the iPod unattended out in public! Brilliant deduction, Holmes!

They decide to leave the iPod on the dashboard of an unattended convertible car.

"Incredibly, within seconds a group of students comes along and our iPod is gone."

Yeah, that's incredible all right -- leave your iPod out in the open, unattended, in public, and it gets stolen!

If these journalists think that's incredible, wait until they get a load of the miracle of childbirth.

Dateline does this 20 times, all over the country. Because if they didn't do it that many times, nobody would believe that valuable stuff gets stolen if you leave it lying around.

"Watching so many people walk away with iPods that didn't belong to them didn't seem to surprise NYPD detective Richard Kenney."

Perhaps that's because Kenney is a trained investigator. Or perhaps it's because he's left his house at least once in the last 10 years.

I have to admit things get more entertaining when the Dateline crew does ambush interviews with the people who stole the iPods. Dateline put spyware on the registration disks -- when the thieves tried to register their stolen iPods, they sent their addresses and other registration information to Dateline.

"It became apparent that at least in some cases, the kind of person who would take an iPod is going to be an impulsive teenager."

Damn, these Dateline guys are sharp! They've figured out that teenagers are more likely to commit petty crime than adults!

Dateline calls on Apple to use its electronics to disable or help trace stolen iPods, which already can be done with laptops and cell phones.

And Apple may be planning to do just that:

Just recently came word from the U.S. Patent Office that Apple has applied for a new patent. In its application, Apple confirms that there is a "serious problem" with iPod theft and that iPod owners have been seriously injured or even murdered for their iPods. And the company has proposed an ingenious solution to the problem: essentially, you can't recharge the iPod or the new iPhone if you can't prove the device is yours when you hook it up to iTunes.

Daring Fireball notes that this isn't all good news:: "Dateline's approval ... is curious -- or at least shortsighted -- given that, if approved, Apple could use such a patent to prevent any other gadget maker from implementing theft-deterring device tracking. Hooray for software patents."

John Gruber, author of Daring Fireball, notes privacy concerns and potential hassles as vindictive people report as stolen all the iPods they gave as gifts to their ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, and ex-spouses. I can just hear the vindictive people chortling gleefully: "Try getting over me now that you can't listen to emo!"

Fake Steve Jobs has the last word: "[L]ook, it's not our job to find your friggin' iPod if it gets stolen. Does Mercedes go looking for my car if it gets pinched? Is it somehow their fault? Same here. Anyway, um, think about this for a minute. We're trying to sell more iPods, right? Yours gets stolen, we're happy to sell you a new one."

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