Image Gallery: Apple iPhone 4, A True Teardown
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Chen's computers, hard drives, and other electronics were seized on behalf of the San Mateo, Calif., District Attorney's Office in April as part of an investigation into circumstances of the iPhone 4 prototype's disappearance and subsequent acquisition by Gizmodo.
The seizure was controversial both because it raised questions about the rights of journalists to protect their sources amid a related criminal investigation and because the group conducting the seizure, the Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT), has an advisor on its steering committee from Apple.
The investigation remains underway. Neither Gawker Media nor the San Mateo District Attorney's Office responded to requests for comment on the status of the investigation.
On Friday, the San Mateo District Attorney's Office asked the judge overseeing investigation to withdraw the warrant it had previously requested.
As a consequence, Chen's possessions will be returned.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which opposed the warrant as violation of the California Penal Code, hailed the warrant's withdrawal.
"As EFF repeatedly noted at the time, the warrant-backed search of Chen's home was illegal as it violated California Penal Code section 1524(g)'s prohibition against the issuance of warrants for 'unpublished information obtained or prepared in gathering, receiving or processing of information for communication to the public,'" the cyber-rights group said.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Gawker Media has agreed to cooperate with investigators.