Apple is reportedly disabling and tracking looted iPhones

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Apple is reportedly disabling and tracking looted iPhones

The Margin

‘Local authorities will be alerted,’ warns a message popping up on stolen iPhones, per social media posts

Apple is reportedly disabling and tracking looted iPhones.


MarketWatch photo illustration/iStockphoto

That stolen iPhone may have its eye on you.

The civil unrest that’s swept the globe in the week since George Floyd was pronounced dead soon after white officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes has sparked some violent outbursts and looting.

But Apple
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which has seen its stores in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Portland and Washington, D.C. broken into and burglarized, isn’t letting its stolen property (like the $1,099 iPhone 11 Pro Max) go so easily.

Images of stolen iPhones are circulating on Reddit and Twitter
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showing a message that warns that the phone has been disabled and is now being tracked. The most viral image shows a device allegedly stolen from a Philadelphia store, with an alert reading: “Please return to Apple Walnut Street. This device has been disabled and is being tracked. Local authorities will be alerted.”

Apple did not immediately respond to a MarketWatch request for comment to verify that it has disabled looted iPhones and begun tracking them. It’s also unclear whether it’s doing this with stolen Apple laptops, tablets and watches, as well, or if someone who returns stolen property to the nearest store will face legal consequences.

But the tech company has certainly taken steps to prevent theft. For example, Apple has been using proximity software since 2016 that disables any demo devices from working outside of the Apple store, except for responding to the “Find my iPhone” geolocation service that can track a lost or stolen device. So the company has the ability to disable and track any stolen device.

Apple had just started reopening more than 100 stores across the country after closing them due to the coronavirus pandemic, but began temporarily shuttering many retail locations again this week after stores were vandalized or looted over the weekend.


“Please return to Apple Walnut Street. This device has been disabled and is being tracked. Local authorities will be alerted.”

Retailers including Target
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Walmart
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and Amazon’s
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Whole Foods have also been closing stores and shortening hours due to the widespread demonstrations. And cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. have begun enforcing curfews to discourage the destruction and looting that has broken out amid some protest demonstrations.

Apple CEO Tim Cook sent a memo to employees over the weekend that called Floyd’s death “senseless” and noted that now is not the time for “standing on the sidelines.”

“To our colleagues in the Black community — we see you,” he added. “You matter, your lives matter, and you are valued here at Apple.”

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