Finding Your Stolen iPod

Here's something new to consider loading onto your iPod: a program that will track the device and then report back with its whereabouts. Several technology companies are starting to sell, or give away, software that's supposed to do just that. When a thief syncs the device with a computer, the software collects identifying data from that computer and sends it back to the tracking firm, which then turns the information over to the rightful owner. What comes next? It's not likely the police would follow every iPod owner's lead, and "I wouldn't show up at their house with a baseball bat," says Jefferson Jewell, of Blackfin Technology, a Boise, Idaho, firm that offers its "whostoleme" software free of charge. "I'd probably call and say, 'Hey, I lost my iPod, I'm offering a $20 reward for it'."

Though iPod thefts are reportedly common, the new software has yet to catch on. GadgetTrak, a firm that sells its software as an annual subscription for $13, says it has tracked down only three iPods and two other electronic devices in the past several months. That may be because owners don't want to be confrontational. Or because the software may be defeatable, which is why Jewell's company is giving it away. Or perhaps a savvy thief can just erase the software. Could Apple itself build individual codes into the hardware of every iPod, and then track stolen ones via iTunes? An Apple spokesman declined to comment. There might be privacy issues—and, of course, there might be no profit in it. Your best bet: don't lose your iPod in the first place.

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