Thursday, August 2, 2007

i-Jacking Runs Rampant, Warrants TV Special

I never realized until last night that the act of stealing an iPod actually has its own term: i-Jacking. I was introduced to this term via a one-hour Dateline NBC special on the very topic. The hidden camera show’s mandate was to present the possibility that Apple could track the location of stolen iPods that are registered online. How? Through a database of serial numbers and personal information that is collected when the customer registers the device with iTunes. Interesting…I was hooked.

Dateline put this theory to the test: it purchased a whack of iPods, made a duplicate CD that would send registration information to its own “mock” database in addition to Apple’s, then “accidentally" left the already registered iPods in various places (park benches, shopping mall food courts, on top of cars, etc.) to be picked up by unsuspecting thieves. Then, they waited for someone to pick up the iPods and eventually register them online. Once a recognized serial number was found, Dateline staff headed to the supplied address to confront the person.

In many cases, it was some 17-year old punk who simply didn’t know any better (and who Dateline had caught on hidden camera swiping the players!) But in other cases, the iPod had fallen into the hands of innocent gift-recipients who had no idea it had been stolen.

Dateline felt that, if the existence of a way to track stolen iPods could be proven, people might just stop viewing them as an easy target for thievery. Of course, would this work just as well in real-world scenarios, and would Apple take it upon themselves to manage such a database for the purpose of tracking thieves?

In the end, although Apple neglected to comment on the story, Dateline did note that Apple has filed a patent for a modification to the iPod and iPhone that would prevent them from being recharged unless the user can prove the device is his. This will hopefully be the first step in deterring iPod theft.

What I find even more interesting than the fact that iPods have become such a desirable target for thieves is the fact that this nifty little device warranted a one-hour TV special based solely on how big a problem “i-Jacking” is.

Click here for a complete transcript of the TV special.

No comments: