iPod Thefts

What happens if you distribute 50 million small,valuable, and easily sellable objects into the hands of men, women, and children all over the world, and tell them to walk around the streets with them? Why, people steal them, of course.

“Rise in crime blamed on iPods”, yells the front page of London’s Metro. “Muggers targeting iPod users”, says ITV. This is the reaction to the government’s revelation that robberies across the UK have risen by 8 per cent in the last year, from 90,747 to 98,204. The Home Secretary, John Reid, attributes this to the irresistible lure of “young people carrying expensive goods, such as mobile phones and MP3 players”. A separate British Crime Survey, however, suggests robbery has risen by 22 per cent, to 311,000.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, just as it wasn’t a surprise in the 1990s when there was a wave of high-priced sneaker thefts. Or that there is also a wave of laptop thefts.

What to do about it? Basically, there’s not much you can do except be careful. Muggings have long been a low-risk crime, so it makes sense that we’re seeing an increase in them as the value of what people are carrying on their person goes up. And people carrying portable music players have an unmistakable indicator: those ubiquitous ear buds.

The economics of this crime are such that it will continue until one of three things happens. One, portable music players become much less valuable. Two, the costs of the crime become much higher. Three, society deals with its underclass and gives them a better career option than iPod thief.

And on a related topic, here’s a great essay by Cory Doctorow on how Apple’s iTunes copy protection screws the music industry.

EDITED TO ADD (8/5): Eric Rescorla comments.

Posted on July 31, 2006 at 7:05 AM58 Comments


Tapani Kuusisto July 31, 2006 7:22 AM

So buy a headset by different brand (and color), so you won’t be telling potential thieves that you’ve got what they are looking for?

buntklicker.de July 31, 2006 7:47 AM

This is why iPod earbuds are sold on eBay – separately from the iPods themselves, that is. Some people want to show off the white earbuds but are too cheap (or too poor) to buy an iPod, and others don’t want their telltale earbuds for fear of being mugged.

These are crazy times. (But hasn’t every time been a crazy time?)

TimTheEnchanter July 31, 2006 7:59 AM

Specifically for iPods it is the white earphones that shout to any passing mugger, steal me!

bob July 31, 2006 8:04 AM

The rise in violent crime in the UK isnt caused by iPods; it can be directly correlated to the draconian gun control implemented several years ago. Now only muggers are authorized to carry guns and normal people are helpless, so its open season.

arl July 31, 2006 8:06 AM

Anythings that “screws the music industry” does not sound bad to me.

Plenty of career options better than being a street thief, but they require work.

Mike Scott July 31, 2006 8:08 AM

There is a fourth option, which is to find a way to stop iPods from working if they’re removed from their owner without his authorisation. This technique is actually working (to an extent) for mobile phones, which can be blocked if they are stolen, but is harder to implement for music players that don’t rely on a network infrastructure.

bob July 31, 2006 8:09 AM

I like to us this analogy for the DMCA: If you lock your keys in your car and break a window or pick the lock to get in, you would be arrested for it because you are overriding the protections built into the car, doesnt matter that you own the car.

gal_sec July 31, 2006 8:13 AM

What’s more of an issue is corporate data on those highly attractive to thieves iPods.

Pat Sutlaw July 31, 2006 8:21 AM

I think there is another aspect to this problem. If you are listening to a personal stereo (iPod or anything else) then you are an easy target for a mugger because you are less aware of your surroundings – particularly the sound of somebody creeping up on you. Personal stereos are just a bad idea in a rough neighbourhood.

Steve J July 31, 2006 8:25 AM


I wasn’t aware that muggers were ‘authorised’ to carry guns in the UK.

Also, what facts are you basing you statement about gun control on? Most people in the UK haven’t been able to carry guns on the streets for a long time now.

Xyz July 31, 2006 8:29 AM

I’m really not a big fan of Doctorow or his perennial DRM rants, but his description of the ROKR phone, “which was so crippled by ridiculous Apple-driven restrictions that it barely made a ripple as it sank to the bottom of the cesspool of failed electronics,” made me chuckle.

The iPod stashed in a book is a classy idea, but a paperback? I thought tradition dictated hiding thing in a hollowed-out Bible.

I for one still think there’s nothing wrong with Capitalism.

barney July 31, 2006 8:29 AM

bob: According to British Crime Survey data (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/home_office_crime_21_09_05.pdf) firearms were used in only 4% of robbery offences. Previous to the introduction of the handgun ban, the general public did not carry firearms for ‘protection’, a limited number of people were licensed to use them for sporting purposes, usually at gun clubs. So to suggest a link between the legislation and a rise in street robberies is absurd.

Xyz July 31, 2006 8:36 AM

“I wasn’t aware that muggers were ‘authorised’ to carry guns in the UK.”

I think what bob meant to say was that when guns are outlawed, then only outlaws have guns.

Ben H July 31, 2006 9:47 AM

“The rise in violent crime in the UK isnt caused by iPods; it can be directly correlated to the draconian gun control implemented several years ago. Now only muggers are authorized to carry guns and normal people are helpless, so its open season.”

Oh dear, oh dear. The gun control laws were tightened in 1997, which I suppose is arguably “several” years ago, but it can hardly be the cause of a recent rise in iPod-related muggings, can it?

Besides, even before the ban, you weren’t allowed to carry guns for personal protection.

Muggers tend to use knives in the UK, not guns as you claim; there’s been a big moral panic about knife murders in the tabloids, even though they’re not actually getting any more common.

Before you parrot tired NRA catchphrases, at least find out if they’re vaguely applicable to the situation under discussion.

What are the rates of iPod muggings in US cities with concealed carry laws? I bet muggers (who probably do have guns in the US) are really deterred by the prospect of running into someone carrying a gun, who is also a circus quick-draw artist fast enough to draw on someone already threatening them with a weapon.

Ben H July 31, 2006 9:56 AM

Also, violent crime (excluding murder, but including mugging) has dropped since 1997, as you can see from the results of the British Crime Survey:


This is based on surveying random samples of people about their experience of crime, so is less subject to fudging than police recorded crime figures.

Rich July 31, 2006 11:41 AM

There are other reasons to replace your distinctive white earbuds. For example, if you happen to work at a very large Software company that hates any form of competition, and is trying desperately to cut into the iPod market, and has managers that yell and jump and rant and sweat on stage like dancing monkey-boys… well, you get the idea.

Rich July 31, 2006 11:47 AM

You can show stats to prove that gun control decreases crime and increases crime. That’s because it depends on the general concentration of guns in the population. If everyone has a gun you’re safer if you also have a gun. If nobody has a gun you’re safer if you also don’t have a gun.

Even if I carried a gun, I think it would be wrong to use it on someone trying to steal an iPod.

LKM July 31, 2006 12:04 PM

Doctorow writes:

Apple’s copy-protection technology makes
media companies into its servants

Uhm… Apple doesn’t want copy protection. The media companies want copy protection. This article is just… weird.

bob July 31, 2006 12:16 PM

@steve, xyz: It boils down to this – I want to see the wording of a law that prohibits people who dont obey laws from doing something. Restraining orders in domestic disputes are a prime example. I cant count how many times I have read/seen in the news something like “…and was killed/beaten by her estranged spouse, who she had a restraining order against…”

@barney, ben: I never claimed muggers used guns, just that a free society alowing people to defend themselves as they see fit is safer. Its kind of like the opposite of a duel, the criminal gets to choose the weapon that suits their physique, temperament, other factors. A little old lady can stop a mugger if he has a knife and she has a gun (knows how to use it, is willing to, etc). If he sees that the factors dont look right, he will go around and try someone, someplace, sometime else. If you are the victim and are attacked, you have no choice, you have to “run what you brung”. If the populace is disarmed, you as a mugger are freer to do whatever you want.

@ben: most muggers (US) arent very good with the guns they carry. If it was me, I would rather have the option to take advantage of an opportunity, than to trust the goodwill and gracious nature of a violent thug.

@rich: until the perp has left and you are still alive to call the police you dont know what they want or will do. No union rules saying they cant stab you after you give them the iPod. Maybe UK criminals are more sporting than in US?

Xyz July 31, 2006 12:53 PM


I concur, many of his suggestions have little to no basis. It seems to me that Doctorow is trying to vilify Apple for no apparent reason. From the article:

“Steve Jobs’s crippleware exists only to lure the entertainment industry in, not to control you in any meaningful way.”

As if DRM is really some kind of addictive drug that Apple uses to make the media industry do its sole bidding. Right. It’s just a bunch of fearmongering blogger spin thats supposed to scare you into submitting to copyfight activists.

greg450318 July 31, 2006 12:57 PM

I should think that it would be possible to identify and disable stolen IPODs when the new owner synchs to iTunes (if Apple created a registry for stolen IPODs).

If matched to the list, the IPOD should be disabled until an Apple dealer is contacted. If you really haven’t stolen it then the IPOD could be re-enabled. If you have then there may be enough info from the user’s iTunes account to perhaps identify the owner of the stolen goods, if not, then at least they can’t use it.

The Better Bob July 31, 2006 1:08 PM

Cory Doctorow says dumb things loudly and repetetively. I didn’t find that essay to be great in any way other than at being yet another example of his shtick.

For example, in his penultimate paragraph he states: “…Apple sold a billion tracks in three years in spite of its DRM, not because of it. No Apple customer bought an iTune because of the DRM.”

Look, Apple could not have sold a billion tracks in three years without bringing the music industry on board. The music industry wouldn’t get on board without DRM. DRM was necessary. So a truer, far more insightful statement would have been: “Apple sold a billion tracks in three years in spite of its DRM and because of it.”

Cory Doctorow cannot seem to wrap his head around the idea that there are at least three parties, each with their own interests, to this compromise — the music industry, Apple, and Apple’s customers. Steve Jobs found a way to balance these competing interests and forge a compromise.

Daedala July 31, 2006 2:27 PM

The Doctorow essay has a very odd focus. To be honest, I’m not sure of the point.

He seems to be blaming evil Apple for tricking the media companies into using DRM. The reason Apple has music to sell at all was because they could “protect” it with DRM (which is really pretty easy to remove); my understanding is that the music industry wouldn’t deal with them, or anyone else, otherwise. The fact that Apple made a success of the broken business model, and can now dictate to the industry to some degree, doesn’t seem to me to be sufficient reason for vilification. The music industry is hoist by its own petard. Boo hoo. Consumers are stuck with DRM — sadder, but likely inevitable, unless Doctorow can show that the nice music companies really wanted to allow downloading music without DRM.

I suppose Apple could have chosen not to develop the iTMS at all, since the music industry won’t allow non-DRM music. But…I really can’t see how Apple is being so evil here. They seem to me to be more careful of, and responsive to, consumer concerns than the music industry, certainly.

bob July 31, 2006 2:45 PM

I hate DRM; but Apple’s business model has ALWAYS been to lock you into their stuff.

Alan July 31, 2006 3:30 PM


I hate DRM; but Apple’s business model has ALWAYS been to lock you into their stuff.

And lock-in isn’t Microsoft’s model, Adobe’s model, or the model of any other software business? If lock-in is Apple’s model, it must be working really well, with their computer market share at a crushing 4.4%.

I think one big reason the iPod succeeded is simplicity. The recording companies only had to negotiate with one player: Apple, to cover player hardware and music sales. The recording companies didn’t have to get involved in brokering any deals between player hardware makers and online music outlets. Now I bet they wish they did.

What any of this has to do with iPod thefts, I don’t know.

Davi Ottenheimer July 31, 2006 3:46 PM

@ BetterBob and Daedala

I agree. Companies that tried to redefine DRM in a more sensible manner, or at least change the terms without support from the media giants, found an army of lawyers working overtime to kill their business model. Didn’t KaZaa just finally settle for millions? Apple managed to get around that and put themselves in a better negotiation position long-term, while still allowing/fostering competition from non-iPod media players that run on open formats.

“Apple’s business model has ALWAYS been to lock you into their stuff”

Whoa there. That’s so untrue it’s painful. Firewire, USB, DVI, TCP/IP, and now *nix…

I can run open software and save data in open standards all day on the Mac without issue. In fact, I move myself from Mac to Windows to Linux to Solaris and other BSD types all day and have zero issues with proprietary formats (thanks to Samba, etc.). I even just upgraded some Macs with hardware off a generic site, since they give us all a nice standards-based memory interface.

BetterBob was correct that the DRM issue has more to do with pressure from media companies than some intrinsic model of Apple that says they want to lock anyone into anything.

This reminds me of Forno’s review of the CBDTPA.


“It’s high time that the entertainment companies learn that if they treat their customers as criminals, they’ll not only have fewer customers, but many more criminals to contend with. How’s that for economic growth?”

Koray July 31, 2006 4:04 PM

“Nobody bought iTunes because of DRM” means that although DRM may have made it possible to sell iTunes, there’s nothing in it that customers seek. It is nothing but a necessary evil (and Yahoo! argues whether or not it’s even necessary).

There are plenty of reasons to ditch the iPod earbuds, foremostly respect for your ears. Get a pair of Koss KSC75’s for $15 and enjoy the sound.

Daedala July 31, 2006 5:25 PM


The Yahoo point is good, but I don’t think that Yahoo would be getting any traction at all with the media companies unless they were running scared about the iTMS lock-in they insisted on in the first place.

Rick July 31, 2006 5:25 PM


I should think that it would be possible to identify and disable stolen IPODs when the new owner synchs to iTunes (if Apple created a registry for stolen IPODs).

I think Apple already does this for stolen laptops. I googled the Apple website and didn’t find anything, but I do remember reading about it. Maybe you have to call them up and give the serial number, or maybe it’s an AppleCare benefit. After being reported, if the laptop ever shows up at a service shop, the repair person can see it’s stolen.

Apple can already identify the original owner of an iPod. I read an article not too long ago about a body being identified by tracing the iPod found with it, or maybe it was a comatose mugging victim with no ID.

There are logistics to work out, like eliminating spoofed “It’s been stolen” reports, but this sounds like a useful service. You should suggest it to Apple on their website.

K July 31, 2006 5:52 PM

Apple (but also the others) can apply an ID on the I-pod and sell the charger only to who give they the bad charger and the ID..
You can steal the I-pod, but not the charger!

very easy 😉

Carl July 31, 2006 5:55 PM

I don’t buy Cory Doctorow’s complaint about not being able to “break into” your own protect work. If I was a famous sci-fi author, I’d keep backups of my files before they were DRM’ed. I wouldn’t have to crack the DRM to get my work. Or is he seriously trying to say he uses DRM’ed work as backups?

quincunx July 31, 2006 6:12 PM

“Oh dear, oh dear. The gun control laws were tightened in 1997, which I suppose is arguably “several” years ago, but it can hardly be the cause of a recent rise in iPod-related muggings, can it?”

Historical statistics are a poor methodology for seeing the various forces and counterforces at play.

It is tantamount to describing the complex topology of the Rockies by taking two time lapsed measurements of the volume of rock contained in it.

Xyz is correct in that PROHIBITION or RESTRICTION of anything leads to MORE of it. The rule that applies to alcohol and drugs applies to guns.

The prohibition/restriction of gun sales, reduces the supply of gun sellers, but in so doing it allows the price to increase. Therefore those black market entrepreneurs that figure out a way to sell them have a large reward to compensate them for working extra-legally. Of course too many of them would bring down the price – however it will never reach a free market unrestricted level as long as prohibition is in place.

In fact if I was a crafty gun seller, I would recommend this policy any place I could so that the more ‘honest’ or most fearful merchants would not be able to compete with me. Then I can become a gun pusher, like a drug pusher or the bathtub gin pusher during the alcohol prohibition.

There are of other forces as well as countervailing forces and they briefly include: police effectiveness, capital flight, minimum wage laws, compulsory education, strict profession licensing, heavy regulation, heavy taxation, welfare of various sorts, subsidies of various sorts, foreign currency suppression, etc…the list can go on.

Anything that creates the incentive of NOT working in your most productive capacity of choosing or anything that effectively eliminates production opportunities by fiat, will inevitably lead to dissatisfaction in the publics’ personal pursuits and a general acceleration towards present-mindedness (something monetary & fiscally policy alone are well in accomplishing. The US is keeping up it’s standard of living purely by DEBT, and not production). Both of these are highly important factors in breeding crime.

The object of desire is of no inherent importance. Today it is IPODs, yesterday it was TVs & VCRs. The day before it was bicycles and gasoline. If the disincentives fostered by the govenment (no – not society!) for not engaging in crime is reduced, it does not matter what the particular valuable market commodity will be the subject of crime. Yes it is true that the current most valuable AND easily captured goods will tend to be the most sought our objects in crime.

All government intervention stimulates crime in a net positive direction, whether or not the statistics effectively recognize this ratcheting effect into the model and whether they take into account market innovation that tends to reduce crime.

In case one has trouble believing the validity of my perhaps seemingly ‘biased’ anti-state view, one can probably still agree that the ridiculous numbers of laws (75,000+ in the US) is itself bound to increase crime by the simple fact that more activities are crimes!

Now one may say that their statistics account for only the big crimes, but don’t forget that people’s inability to perform services that are considered ‘illegal’ will drive them to less preferential modes of acquiring wealth, which in our case may include crimes of the big sort – if they get into an insurmountable situation.

“This is based on surveying random samples of people about their experience of crime, so is less subject to fudging than police recorded crime figures.”

I don’t want to credit the police, but I fail to see how a questionaire is likely to give better results. Anyone can always make something up.

Perhaps the perception of not enough police protection is a good enough reason for someone to lie, so that maybe more funds can be allocated in their community. A government survey to a semi-intelligent man sounds like this: If I can fake a problem, maybe some money will be sent my way. This is how disaster recovery works.

Because of the parasitic nature of the state, and because democracy is an auction of stolen goods, is is easy to see why nearly everybody will be complaining of the terrible crimes in their area when the economy spirals downward, and the good times stop rolling.

Jack O'Shea July 31, 2006 6:18 PM

@K, greg450318

It’s too much trouble. Far too easy for someone to lock your iPod as a prank, and far too easy to pretend that you lost your charger (or key, or whatever) that lets you play your iPod.

There’s going to be a way around the security of your iPod. Also, it’s too late in this product’s life cycle (wrt this problem). If you released a super-secure iPod now, a thief has no idea what kind you’re carrying. Odds are that you have an older non-secure one. Even if you have a fancy new one, they’ll probably take it anyway.

Just look at bios passwords on laptops and the ways to get around them (no, you can’t just pull the battery).

K July 31, 2006 8:05 PM

@Jack O’Shea:

yes, probably, it’s too late now, but we need a starting point, and isn’t too easy to pretend a lost charger with the valid rules 🙂

Security must cover also the accessories, this is the key (my opinion)

Peter G. August 1, 2006 1:38 AM

England strictly enforces laws against self-defense, and does not strictly enforce laws against armed robbery. The increase in crime does not need to be attributed to the increase in iPods.

C’mon, Brits. The next time someone tries to mug you, pull out that war-trophy Luger your father left in the closet and blow the mugger’s head off. Then shoot the cop who tries to arrest you. Repeat until effective.

Erik N August 1, 2006 3:00 AM

You forgot the 4th possibility:

  • iPod muggings eventually saturate the market for stolen iPods.

This assumes of course that on average people are more likely to buy a new iPod than a stolen one.

Maybe someone could arrange that the muggers only steal iPods from people who have bought stolen iPods? In that case we will have a “leasing agreement” and everyone would be “happy”.

Anonymous August 1, 2006 3:08 AM

This is why iPod earbuds are sold on eBay – separately from the iPods themselves, that is. Some people want to show off the white earbuds but are too cheap (or too poor) to buy an iPod, and others don’t want their telltale earbuds for fear of being mugged.

and some simple want a better listening quality compared to an ipod 😉

Firedrake August 1, 2006 4:07 AM

Plus ca change.

Anyone remember the early 1980s? When the Sony Walkman was the neat new thing? There was exactly the same sort of panic about those being stolen (though not to the extent of posters in the Underground saying “don’t flash around your toys”, because people weren’t then assumed to be as stupid as they are now).

Somehow, the universe didn’t end. Bruce’s option one kicked in first, and I see no reason to assume it won’t this time. There are many more complex causes of changes in crime patterns, and indeed of changes in crime statistics (which are not at all the same thing) – but iPods and “binge drinking” and “hoodies” are easy things to point out for the hard-of-thinking.

Neil August 1, 2006 7:39 AM


It’s certainly refreshing to hear opinions from across the pond, and it takes a peculiarly American kind of logic to argue that street crime can be reduced by handing out guns to the general population. The comparative levels of street crime in the US versus Western Europe are incontrovertible proof that this idea is nonsense.

Having said that, the Metro newspaper’s headline was just as bizarre. Why on earth should we place the blame for rising crime on iPods or any other inanimate object? Rising crime should be blamed on criminals.

Quick-draw August 1, 2006 7:49 AM

“What are the rates of iPod muggings in US cities with concealed carry laws? I bet muggers (who probably do have guns in the US) are really deterred by the prospect of running into someone carrying a gun, who is also a circus quick-draw artist fast enough to draw on someone already threatening them with a weapon.”

You can always try to defend yourself. It’s still better than letting somebody to kill you like a rabbit. Even if you don’t use your gun first and you will be still alive you can always shot him in the back. How much muggers will try to stole your iPod if they know they can get shot for trying it?

Moderator August 1, 2006 8:34 AM

Please don’t turn this into a gun control thread.

Quincunx, please refer to my earlier comment to you.

Rich August 1, 2006 11:00 AM

Trying to keep this off of gun control, and yet respond to bob about what muggers will do to you after stealing your iPod:

It’s all about threat assesment. Someone who wants my iPod is unlikely (IMO) to want to kill me. They just want my iPod. I can resist with force and maybe I’ll keep my iPod, but I also incure the risk that someone (possibly me) will be seriously injured. I can reduce the risk of injury, give up my iPod, and learn a lesson about keeping my iPod hidden. Am I giving up liberty for security? Perhaps. Or maybe I’m being pragmatic.

quincunx August 1, 2006 11:07 AM

Mr Moderator,

I think you are jumping the gun here yourself.

I was merely elaborating on Bruce’s “Three, society deals with its underclass and gives them a better career option than iPod thief.”

That was all I wanted to say, and I think it was proper.

Douglas Knight August 1, 2006 11:40 AM


Street crime rates are higher in western Europe than in the US. Except murder.

bob August 1, 2006 12:39 PM

@Moderator: mea culpa; I was merely trying to draw a parallel from this instance of “Hold (pick an inanimate object) responsible for behaviors of people” to a legacy one, which to me seems an irrational process that will always fail.

@Alan: Stipulated that I did not specify, but I was talking about hardware. So the correct historical comparison to Apple I was trying to draw would be IBM (Boca Raton) not MS. They were VERY open. To such a degree that they took a hard left in ’85 (with the POS/2) to try to put the genie back in the bottle, but the rest of the market had developed such mass that it kept on the course it had already set and IBM marginalized themselves out of existence.

Moderator August 1, 2006 6:16 PM

Quincunx, if your comment had been totally irrelevant, I would have just deleted it. But I’m asking you again to dial down the repeated, lengthy explorations of Libertarian philosophy that so many topics seem to provide you with opportunities for — or to post them on a blog of your own and send us trackbacks.

Roger August 2, 2006 12:44 AM

And on the subject of gun debates, and crime statistics meaning different things to different people:
* are British annual mugging rates really so uniform that an 8% change is worthy of comment?
* and how seriously do we take an article which claims — without references or other evidence — that the real rate of robbery (a crime not noted for a high degree of under-reporting) is more than triple times the officially reported rate?

Having said all that, I endorse Pat Sutlaw’s comment. Walking around in public without “situational awareness” is just asking for trouble. If you don’t get mugged, you’ll probably end up walking in front of a bus, or not hearing a gas leak alarm, or somesuch. We have evolved ears for a reason, and as pleasant as music can be, that ain’t the reason.

Oh, and for hiding your iPod in a book, I recommend “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom”. It just seems … appropriate.

Peter G. August 2, 2006 12:52 AM

You mean it’s appropriate because “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom” is already an empty book?

Like most of Doctorow’s opinions on copyright and information technology.

Davi Ottenheimer August 3, 2006 12:53 AM

“Walking around in public without ‘situational awareness’ is just asking for trouble.”

Wow. Do you really want to blame the victim when they are mugged for an iPod?

Reminds me of the “just world” theory often discussed in terms of rape victims:


“Melvin Lerner, a social psychologist, has conducted a series of experiments to test this hypothesis. In an impressive body of research, he documents people’s eagerness to convince themselves that beneficiaries deserve their benefits and victims their suffering. […] Lerner concluded that ‘the sight of an innocent person suffering without possibility of reward or compensation motivated people to devalue the attractiveness of the victim in order to bring about a more appropriate fit between her fate and her character.'”

Davi Ottenheimer August 3, 2006 1:02 AM

Incidentally, the “Just World” theory or hypothesis has interesting inferences that might help explain how some leaders justify their security policies…

From the SCU site, cited above:

“Zick Rubin of Harvard University and Letitia Anne Peplau of UCLA have conducted surveys to examine the characteristics of people with strong beliefs in a just world. They found that people who have a strong tendency to believe in a just world also tend to be more religious, more authoritarian, more conservative…the belief in a just world may take the place of a genuine commitment to justice. For some people, it is simply easier to assume that forces beyond their control mete out justice. When that occurs, the result may be the abdication of personal responsibility, acquiescence in the face of suffering and misfortune, and indifference towards injustice. Taken to the extreme, indifference can result in the institutionalization of injustice.”

Zaphod August 3, 2006 4:19 AM

I find strapping my Stryder AR next to my iPod works as a suitable deterrent.


Roger August 7, 2006 11:56 PM

@Davi Ottenheimer:
“Wow. Do you really want to blame the victim…”

Um, no. There is, I hope, some margin between pointing out risky behaviour and blaming the victim, otherwise the entire security industry must think people deserve to be robbed….

pjm August 15, 2006 4:13 PM

[I’m a little late to the discussion because I read these when the email goes out.]

Regarding this:

“Three, society deals with its underclass and gives them a better career option than iPod thief.”

I see. So it’s society’s fault that people steal iPods. Perhaps, with a little encouragement and career counseling, these people could develop into high-end, white-collar criminals.

How about blaming the criminal for his own behavior and choices instead of sloughing the blame off on “society”?

Bruce Schneier August 16, 2006 4:27 AM


Don’t confuse causation with blame. Just because society is a contributing cause to a person’s action does not mean that the person is not to blame for the action.

If you demand that we only examine causes that are also blame, then we’re going to miss a lot and not understand what’s going on. It’s the same sort of thing that happened after 9/11, when popular opinion shouted down any attempts to explain terrorism that didn’t involve placing direct blame on the terrorists. Of course they’re to blame, but the causes of terrorism are much more complicated than that — and solutions require us to understand the full complexity of what’s going on.

pjm August 16, 2006 3:14 PM

[Thank you for the quick response!]

I’ll grant that there can be societal factors, but I maintain that the moral-deficiency and the character of the thief are more relevant. Correcting the societal factors may reduce some incentives, but such improvements do not reform the individual. Improve the opportunities for the morally deficient person, and you simply change the venue for his crime. The former iPod thief becomes the future embezzler.

Vijay September 28, 2006 10:07 AM

4th option is to use some GPS based identity tagging and have a monitoring systems to track the stolen or lost one’s down

jesselindsay December 17, 2007 6:29 PM

i have an ipod,i listen to it on the bus and random places i know to be on the safer side,but even then i pay attention.
one option not listed above is maybe people should be a little less easy to rob?
i have lived in some very shitty areas and i learned its a good idea NOT TO HAVE HEAD PHONES ON in areas where predators wait…..duh.
just take the ear buds out when walking down dark ally ways,abandoned wear houses,chop shops,sewers,underground layers,haunted castles,brothels and industrial complexes.your chances will go up.also carry an i-sword! its automatically +4,glows blue when orcs are nearby and you can download hot new spells exclusive to i-cast.

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.