Apple Warns Looters That Stolen iPhones Are Being Tracked, Authorities Contacted

As some protests in response to the killing of George Floyd turn violent, those looting Apple stores and making off with stolen iPhones are discovering that not only are they unable to restore them to factory settings, but they're being tracked. In an image circulating on social media, one such person was met with a message reading, "Please return to Apple Walnut Street. This device has been disabled and is being tracked. Local authorities will be alerted," when they attempted to use the stolen device.

According to the 9to5Mac, Apple devices are typically attached to toggles in store, but in scenarios where they are ripped off and move out of range of the store’s Wi-Fi, a "software kill switch" is enabled, all but rendering them useless. An iPhone that is removed from the store will go into Find My iPhone mode and will ring until the battery dies. Forbes reports that such measures mean that looters will have little use for the devices. While it is unlikely that the stolen items will be returned to stores, as is requested, they can still be stripped for parts. More likely, though, they will be dumped over fears that tracking is in place.

The Walnut Street store, located in Philadelphia, is just one of many Apple stores to be looted as some protests turn violent. Across the country, rioters have smashed windows and ransacked stores in Portland, Salt Lake City, and Washington D.C., oftentimes making off with merchandise. In response, many Apple stores have temporarily closed, some even boarding up their windows in an effort to prevent further looting.

Despite the sometimes violent outcomes, Apple has recognized the importance of the movement. In a memo sent to employees, Apple CEO Tim Cook called Floyd's death "senseless" and just one example in "a much longer history of racism," according to Bloomberg. Acknowledging that "George Floyd's death is shocking and tragic proof that we must aim far higher than a 'normal' future, and build one that lives up to the highest ideals of equality and justice," Cook announced that Apple would be "making donations to a number of groups, including the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit committed to challenging racial injustice, ending mass incarceration, and protecting the human rights of the most vulnerable people in American society." The company will also be "matching two-for-one all employee donations."