As protests continue across the U.S., a week on from the death of George Floyd while under arrest in Minneapolis on May 25, those campaigning against “police brutality” have condemned as “opportunistic” the violence that has escalated across the country. Sunday saw “a fifth straight of rioting and looting, resulting in another wave of arrests.” Apple, among other high-end retailers, has seen its fair share of attacks and has now taken action to protect staff and prevent further damage.
Apple CEO Tim Cook sent a message to his employees as those protests escalated, saying that “there is a pain deeply etched in the soul of our nation and in the hearts of millions. To stand together, we must stand up for one another, and recognize the fear, hurt, and outrage rightly provoked by the senseless killing of George Floyd and a much longer history of racism.”
Cook went on to say that “at Apple, our mission has and always will be to create technology that empowers people to change the world for the better. We’ve always drawn strength from our diversity, welcomed people from every walk of life to our stores around the world, and strived to build an Apple that is inclusive of everyone.”
These words were being digested as the tech giant made the decision to close the majority of its U.S. stores for the safety of those staff and its customers, stores that had only just reopened after the COVID-19 shutdown. Apple has unsurprisingly become a favored target of looters, given the likely spoils on offer, and the decision was taken to remove stock from shop floors and shutter locations.
Apple stores were attacked or damaged in Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Philadelphia, with looters stealing whatever products were accessible at the time. But this being Apple, there is a sting in the tail for anyone stealing a boxed iPhone from one of those retail stores.
It has long been known that Apple operates some form of proximity software that disables a device when it is taken illegally from a store. Until now, though, little had been seen of that technology in action. Well, thanks to social media, we can now see the message that greets a looter powering up their new device: “This device has been disabled and is being tracked,” it says. “Local authorities will be alerted.”
It is unlikely any of those devices will be returned to stores as requested, but that’s not the point. They may be stripped for parts. More likely, they will be quickly dumped over fears there is some form of tracking in place. This is Apple after all.
Looting apart, the theft of high-end phones—with iPhones top of the list—has been an issue in major cities for years. Apple has taken step after step to try to render its devices worthless once taken, including the sticky “Find My” functionality that enables users to track down an iPhone. “If your device goes missing,” Apple says “put it in Lost Mode to lock it immediately and start tracking its location.”
For users that do lose their iPhones, Apple provides useful tips as to what to do next. But for those considering stealing one from its stores, the advice is much more simple—don’t. It will not work and may lead to an unwelcome knock on the door.