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People Are Tracking Thieves Using "Find My IPhone" And Then Hunting Them Down With Hammers

Today in very bad ideas.

Find My iPhone, in many ways, made it fundamentally easier to track down your phone after you've misplaced it following a night of responsible drinking. Human dad-joke and Yahoo tech guy David Pogue even once used it to find his.

But now Find My iPhone is reportedly setting the table for dangerous confrontations between the newly phone-less and apparent thieves, at least according to a story in The New York Times. "Victims are often desperate to recover their stolen phones, which, as home to their texts, photos and friends' phone numbers, can feel less like devices than like extensions of their hands," reports the Times's Ian Lovett. "While iPhones may be the most popular with thieves, apps that can track stolen phones using GPS are now available for most smartphones." Here's the key bit, though, with emphasis:

And although pursuing a thief can occasionally end in triumph, it can also lead to violence, particularly because some people arm themselves—hammers are popular—while hunting for their stolen phones.

Think about that for a second. People are willing to go all Oldboy on strangers—who may or may not have actually taken the thing—for an Apple gadget. Unless you are prepared to deal with the consequences of splattering someone's skull into a red mist, we would advise against this. Free lifehack, in fact: Do not bring a hammer with you when you're chasing down your iPhone. Don't chase down your iPhone, at all. Call the police instead; sometimes the police are even helpful!

The report speaks to anti-theft legislation calling for a "kill switch," which would effectively render the expensive gadgets useless bricks remotely by wiping them clean and making them unusable. While phone-makers like Samsung and police departments across the country have been calling for such a feature for years—arguing that a kill switch would effectively nullify the secondary economy thieves need to resell goods—carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and others have been vehement in their opposition.

Why? They claim they would lose money. Most recently, an anti-theft bill proposed in California was killed in the state senate.

[Image: Flickr user Morgan]

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  • Eva Martin

    This is so what you'd expect to hear from businesses, they're losing!, what about the consumer who will have to pay for a new phone, or a deductible they're not really able to afford. When is it going to be about the consumer, and not big business?!

  • Caitlin Zupancic

    I called the Police when my iPhone was stolen, I even tracked it down to the house where the thief was staying and the police met me a street away. They said they couldn't do anything about it, because if they knocked on the door all the guy had to do was say sorry, I don't have it, and that would be the end. They also said the Find My IPhone app wasn't trustworthy because the signal could bounce off of other signals and give an incorrect location. So generally, if your cell phone gets stolen you're shit out of luck, my friends. I think the kill switch is a great idea.

  • Noah Whateley

    If the "kill the phone" law did go into effect, how quickly afterwards do you think the ability to unbrick the device would show up on the internet? A couple days? There are already ways to homebrew iPhones and Androids to replace the current OS, why not just be able to install to a device with no OS to begin with?

  • Joel Rambaud

    Cell phone company make more money replacing stolen cell phone than installing device which would kill the phone remotely , Attention all talented pick pocket , look at the peoples who voted against the bill in California ands steal their phone ... they will have a different view.

  • Jason Nunnelley

    1) I'd never do bodily harm to someone over an iPhone. I'd like to imagine myself more evolved than that. 2) I'd never bother calling the cops to hunt down my iPhone. I just can't imagine cops being bothered with hunting down non-drug related criminals. Now if we had asset forfeiture for possession of stolen iPhones, maybe.

  • Bothered with non-drug related criminals? So rapists, murderers, thieves and so on that don't associate with drugs should not be pursued? Well heck that would certainly help with the overcrowding in our prisons.

  • Maurice Brown

    Why would they want to kill legislation like that. What was the argument on the side of the telcos?

  • More directly, it is because people have to go out and buy a new phone if theirs is stolen, so allowing thieves to be profitable is good for business. If phones are worthless after stolen, presumably, theft would decrease. Therefore, purchases of new phones would decrease as well.

  • Andrew Shinn

    I would think that the objection to such laws would be pretty obvious: it sets a bad precedent for government regulation. If you were starting a company, would you want legislators to have feature-level approval over every one of your design decisions? How many innovations would be killed if each required a government approval and a study about how it may or may not be used?

  • Jason Gerard Clauss

    Awesome! If I were in charge I'd give a medal to anyone who killed or crippled a thief. I think we should kill all the thieves anyway. Nothing but subhuman parasites.

  • Michael L Bennett

    Wow, if you could scale your feelings back to just chopping off a hand in public you might find kindred spirits in the middle east.