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Apple is tracking iPhones stolen from its stores

Workers put up boards around the Apple flagship store on Fifth Avenue, after a night of protest over the death of an African-American man George Floyd in Minneapolis on June 2, 2020 in Manhattan in New York City. - New York's mayor Bill de Blasio yesterday declared a city curfew from 11:00 pm to 5:00 am, as sometimes violent anti-racism protests roil communities nationwide. Saying that "we support peaceful protest," De Blasio tweeted he had made the decision in consultation with the state's governor Andrew Cuomo, following the lead of many large US cities that instituted curfews in a bid to clamp down on violence and looting. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP) (Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNN) — Apple is sending a clear message to people who’ve stolen iPhones from its stores: You’re “being tracked.”

The company is actively disabling the iPhones that are stolen from the displays of its retail stores, leaving them inoperable.

Screenshots of Apple’s warning message started to pop up on sites such as Twitter and Reddit earlier this week amid global protests following the death of George Floyd.

Apple stores, which recently started reopening across the United States after months of closures due to the global pandemic, reported vandalism and theft at several locations, including in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC.

“Please return to Apple Walnut Street,” read one message, referencing its Philadelphia location, posted to Twitter. “The device has been disabled and is being tracked. Local authorities will be alerted.”

Apple declined to comment on matters of security.

However, the effort isn’t specific to the ongoing protests. The company has long installed special software on its stores’ iPhones to track the whereabouts of stolen items. This software does not come on purchased iPhones.

In a memo sent to employees on Sunday, Apple CEO Tim Cook called the killing of Floyd “senseless” and pledged to donate to human rights groups, including the Equal Justice Initiative.

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