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Apple tracking stolen iPhones looted from stores

Thomas Barrabi

Apple iPhones that were looted from stores in recent days were disabled and displayed a message indicating that they were being tracked.

Peaceful protests against police brutality following the death of George Floyd have occasionally turned violent in recent days, with instances of looting and vandalism reported in several cities. Apple Stores in Philadelphia, New York and other cities were targeted, prompting company officials to temporarily close all U.S. locations.

Stolen devices are not usable outside Apple Stores. Individuals holding the phones were alerted that they could be tracked and reported to local law enforcement.

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“Please return to Apple Walnut Street,” one such message posted on social media said. “This device has been disabled and is being tracked. Local authorities will be alerted.”

Apple declined to comment on the matter.

Apple products on display in stores are demo devices that run on different software than the iPhones available for public sale. The tech giant has long utilized locking software that makes devices unusable outside of stores to foil thieves.

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Floyd, 46, died in Minneapolis police custody last week. A white police officer, Derek Chauvin, was caught on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes before his death. Chauvin and three other officers involved in the incident face criminal charges.

Several cities have imposed curfews in recent days as part of efforts to contain violence occurring alongside the peaceful protests. Apple was one of several retailers to shutter stores or reduce hours in impacted areas.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook condemned the Floyd killing in a memo to staffers and pledged donations to multiple social justice causes, including the Equal Justice Initiative.

“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,” Cook said. “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.”

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