Looters Are Now Seeing Unsettling Messages Appear on Phones


Full disclosure before I write this article: I have never looted.

I know, I’ve somehow avoided it. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never lived near a major commercial district during a time of unrest. Perhaps it’s because I have a respect for the law. Whatever the case, I’ve never had to weigh the calculus of how easy it is to run from the police while carrying a 60″ 4K TV versus a 65″ 4K TV, or whether or not going with the curved model makes any difference in terms of ease of carriage while fleeing.

On first thought, I would think that phones might be a safer bet. They’re small buggers, after all. I have one, it fits in my pocket and it’s pretty amazing in terms of what it can do. I mean, it organizes my schedule and my appointments. It contains my entire ebook collection for when I don’t feel like dragging my iPad along. It logs how many steps I take every day. It can even track where I take those steps and where I’ve been–

Oh wait, no. Looting a phone is a terrible idea. Good thing I’m not a looter, but it took me maybe five minutes to think this all through. The looters — who assumedly had time to plan what they were going to take, given that the general absence of law enforcement meant the atmosphere was often like Black Friday without the cashiers — probably had some time to think this through.

Even if the dash for iPhone 11 Pros was so crazy that you didn’t have time to think about the fact that you would be tracked by the device as you played “Supermarket Sweep,” surely you’d think through it and come to that conclusion before you got it home, right? I mean, I know I’m brilliant and all, but you can figure out what it took me two paragraphs to realize in like, an hour or two.

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I’m sure some people came to this conclusion. For those who didn’t. Apple is sending them a friendly message that they done goofed.

Apparently, “josh (apex male)” would “be heated” with what’s happening to a lot of people who took these devices. According to Fox Business, the new “owners” of Apple iPhones that were taken from the company’s stores in recent days are getting notices from the company that they’re currently in possession of a useless piece of glass, metal and silicon that’s currently tracking their every move.

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Apple stores in New York, Philadelphia and other cities were the target of looting, which caused the company to close parts of its retail operation down temporarily, as Business Insider reported.

While Apple doesn’t comment on security issues, it’s known that the demo devices that are in store displays run on different software that makes them unusable outside of the store.

As the BBC reported, purchased devices don’t have that software on them. However, stolen devices can be locked and tracked. So, given that I’m assuming Apple has some reasonable control over its inventory, one can assume other phones stolen from these stores aren’t going to be usable for that long.

It’s not as if Apple has suddenly turned conservative, mind you. In a memo to staffers, Apple CEO Tim Cook promised donations to numerous social justice organizations.

Cook wrote that the “painful past is still present today—not only in the form of violence, but in the everyday experience of deeply rooted discrimination. We see it in our criminal justice system, in the disproportionate toll of disease on Black and Brown communities, in the inequalities in neighborhood services and the educations our children receive. While our laws have changed, the reality is that their protections are still not universally applied,” according to Ars Technica.

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“To create change, we have to reexamine our own views and actions in light of a pain that is deeply felt but too often ignored,” the memo continued.

“Issues of human dignity will not abide standing on the sidelines. To our colleagues in the Black community — we see you. You matter, your lives matter, and you are valued here at Apple.”

Nor would I expect Apple to act any differently; it’s the company’s right and it’s in its organizational DNA. I just put this out there as a contrast for the liberal politicians who’ve countenanced these riots as legitimate political outgrowth of injustice.

They aren’t. What these individuals are doing is either appropriating or destroying property that belonged to someone else. Apple may seem like an evil, distant organization to the people who felt themselves entitled to the iPhone. And yet, Apple’s political values may have aligned with theirs, inasmuch as we assume the looters had political values.

The good thing is that Apple can track what was taken and either get it back or deliver some form of justice to the looter — although resale might complicate things. Apple can also rebuild its stores fairly easily without taking too much of a hit monetarily.

Minority-owned businesses that got ransacked on the iconic 52nd St. Corridor in West Philadelphia? They can’t track their wares. Who knows if they can rebuild their stores?

Oh, so maybe you stole that 60″ flatscreen from a Target, a big, faceless corporation? Unfortunately, as The New York Times reports, the company closed stores or dramatically cut hours at 200 locations, something that’ll affect a lot of faces who need paychecks in a wretched economy.

This shouldn’t be excused by politicians rushing to make it look like they care about inequality and inequity by casting mass lawbreaking as something deeper than sheer opportunism.

And remember George Floyd? The reason for all the unrest? The media isn’t exclusively covering the peaceful protests meant to condemn his killing at the hands of a police officer that knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. They also have a helicopter trained upon you as you walk away from the shattered glass of an Apple Store. Good work.

Thankfully, the cameraman in the helicopter and the viewers at home aren’t the only entities watching you. Enjoy that “free” iPhone. I can only hope it ends up costing you a whole lot of money in other ways.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture