Police in Silicon Valley have launched an investigation into the lost iPhone prototype that made its way in to the hands of Gizmodo, CNET reported late Friday. Law enforcement officials told the site that criminal laws may have been broken as a result of the transaction, but did not provide much more in the way of detail.
CNET’s source claimed that Apple had been contacted, and it was thought that a computer crime task force from Santa Clara County (where Apple is headquartered) was heading up the investigation. Everything is preliminary, and the investigation will only see if enough evidence exists to press charges.
It is not known if the investigation directly targets Gizmodo, the person who found the device, or both. Some legal analysts have said in the least that Apple may have a case against the prototype’s finder, and possibly Gizmodo as well depending on the facts.
Pressing charges against the site may not be as straightforward as some think: as I wrote Tuesday Apple does share some culpability in the matter, and due to First Amendment issues and past Supreme Court decisions, it’s much harder to criminally prosecute the press for leaks.
However, those cases did not deal with confidential information obtained in the manner that Gizmodo did, so it’s unclear how much those decisions would apply here.