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New York artist investigated over Apple Store spyware project

post #1 of 100
Thread Starter 
A Brooklyn-based artist is being investigated by Apple and the Secret Service after installing spy camera software on New York Apple Retail Store computers that took pictures of customers and sent them to a remote server.

Kyle McDonald initiated the project, entitled People Staring at Computers, in June, using software to capture the expressions of customers using demo Macs in Apple Stores around New York, Mashable reports.

Over the course of three days, McDonald installed his software, which captured photos every minute and sent them to a server, on roughly 100 computers in the company's stores. The artist has created a blog displaying the images.

In early July, he arranged an unauthorized exhibition at two Apple stores where customers were first shown a picture of themselves and then photos of other Apple store visitors. Earlier this week, McDonald released a video compiling the captured images and showing footage of the exhibition.

"We have this expression on our face [when we use computers] that basically says that were not interacting with anybody, were interacting with the machine, McDonald said of the project. Even if there are a lot of people in the room at the Apple store, youre not interacting with them. If something weird happens, you dont say, Hey, did you see that?



After his servers received an image from what appeared to be an Apple technician who had traced the program and installed the software himself at the company's headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., McDonald realized his work had attracted the company's attention. At first, he thought Apple had Days later, four Secret Service agents visited his house with a search warrant for computer fraud. According to the report, they confiscated two computers, an iPod and two flash drives and notified him that Apple would contact him separately.

Source: Kyle McDonald

Source: Kyle McDonald

McDonald, who holds a master's degree in electronic arts, maintains that he hasn't broken any laws, although he does admit that his project might make some people uncomfortable. The artist noted that did receive permission from Apple's security guards to photograph in the store and first checked with customers about taking their photos with a camera. He also said people who do not want to be part of his project can ask to be removed.

In an email sent to ifoAppleStore, McDonald said, My understanding is that legally, these people are in a private space that is open to the public and therefore can be photographed without consent. I asked the Apple store security if it was ok to take pictures, but did not specify the means of taking photos. They said it was good, and encouraged me to take photos."

For its part, Apple recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of its retail stores. The company's retail business is in flux, however, as Apple is actively searching for a new retail chief after its senior vice-president of retail Ron Johnson announced that he was leaving after 11 years with the company to become the CEO of retailer J.C. Penney. Johnson is credited with playing an vital role in the success of Apple's retail stores, which have become some of the most profitable and well-branded stores in the industry.

Recently revealed internal documents indicate that the company exercises "intensive control" and meticulous planning over its retail operations. For instance, Apple "Genius" technicians are trained not to use the word "unfortunately" and instead say "as it turns out."
post #2 of 100
I took my camera out of my pocket in the Apple store in NYC and I was threatened with Jail if I took pictures!! I don't believe a security guard told him it was ok!!

Computer fraud!!! I don't think so!! but you screw around with Apple you will get SCREWED!!
post #3 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by captmark View Post

I took my camera out of my pocket in the Apple store in NYC and I was threatened with Jail if I took pictures!! I don't believe a security guard told him it was ok!!

Computer fraud!!! I don't think so!! but you screw around with Apple you will get SCREWED!!

They can become an artist behind bars.
post #4 of 100
Is it any different to the way people stare at TV?
post #5 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by captmark View Post

I took my camera out of my pocket in the Apple store in NYC and I was threatened with Jail if I took pictures!! I don't believe a security guard told him it was ok!!

Computer fraud!!! I don't think so!! but you screw around with Apple you will get SCREWED!!

I believe installing software on someone else's computer without their consent constitutes computer fraud. The fact that he took pictures in the store may or may not be a separate offense. That he is defending himself for taking the photos, either with a camera or via the computes, as if that's what he's in trouble for, just shows how ignorant he is. The photos will be the least of his worries.
post #6 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by captmark View Post

I took my camera out of my pocket in the Apple store in NYC and I was threatened with Jail if I took pictures!! I don't believe a security guard told him it was ok!!

Even if the guard did say yes it wasn't likely that he was asked if it was okay to install software etc.

As for what possible charges. There's the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. There's laws against surveillance on private property without the property owners permission or permission from those being recorded outside of a warrant and so on. Apparently his computer was across state lines so sending the photos there might have raised additional issues

And yes an Apple store is considered private property for things like this

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post #7 of 100
"can ask to be removed"...

What? After their pictures interacting with the computers have been taken? That is not ethical. Should be before! And he has a university degree?

BTW, do Appleinsider have the permission to show that two sample pictures by any mean? Seems like they have been chosen for a sensational purpose.
post #8 of 100
It was a douchebag thing to do and he looks like a douchebag too.

post #9 of 100
Hmmm... now that Kyle's name and address is known he may want to think about moving... there may be a few people in those pictures that don't want to be on his blog and could get quite upset about it... if you know what I mean...
Hmmmmmm...
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Hmmmmmm...
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post #10 of 100
I'd be really disturbed if the Secret Service showed up at my door and started confiscating my computer equipment. Not much you can do about it. Apple has to protect itself from further planting of software on computers in their retail outlets. I wonder if this will hinder this person's future employment. Interesting project, disastrous results.
post #11 of 100
oops.
post #12 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by Constable Odo View Post

I'd be really disturbed if the Secret Service showed up at my door and started confiscating my computer equipment. Not much you can do about it. Apple has to protect itself from further planting of software on computers in their retail outlets. I wonder if this will hinder this person's future employment. Interesting project, disastrous results.

I'm wondering why the Secret Service is involved. Shouldn't this be the purview of the FBI? Unless the President or some other official dropped by the Apple Store and was photographed?
post #13 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by ltcommander.data View Post

I'm wondering why the Secret Service is involved. Shouldn't this be the purview of the FBI? Unless the President or some other official dropped by the Apple Store and was photographed?

The Secret Service does a lot more than just protect the President and a few other people. In fact, the Secret Service was first created to suppress counterfeit currency.

The Patriot Act (Public Law 107-56) increased the Secret Service's role in investigating fraud and related activity in connections with computers. In addition it authorized the Director of the Secret Service to establish nationwide electronic crimes taskforces to assist the law enforcement, private sector and academia in detecting and suppressing computer-based crime;

http://www.secretservice.gov/history.shtml#TODAY
post #14 of 100
I'm all for "art", and I realize it's difficult to define, but some of these guys are just attention hungry maniacs. Then they try to justify things like graffiti, etc as if it was for the public good or we will learn something about ourselves as humans, etc... what a bunch of fraud. The fact is, he altered property that was not his own without permission and cost the company and government money trying to sort it all out.

Lesson: Get a real craft. Hone it. Master it. Then you can be an artist. Until then, guys like this are a bunch of nits.

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post #15 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

The Secret Service does a lot more than just protect the President and a few other people. In fact, the Secret Service was first created to suppress counterfeit currency.

The Patriot Act (Public Law 107-56) increased the Secret Service's role in investigating fraud and related activity in connections with computers. In addition it authorized the Director of the Secret Service to establish nationwide electronic crimes taskforces to assist the law enforcement, private sector and academia in detecting and suppressing computer-based crime;

http://www.secretservice.gov/history.shtml#TODAY

Yes, but I thought their electronics focus was still protecting financial or critical infrastructure since they are part of Homeland Security and before that Treasury. I guess their purview can be a lot more broad than that including general corporate/consumer issues like this Apple Store.
post #16 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

A Brooklyn-based artist is being investigated by Apple and the Secret Service after installing spy camera software on New York Apple Retail Store computers that took pictures of customers and sent them to a remote server.

Over the course of three days, McDonald installed his software, which captured photos every minute and sent them to a server, on roughly 100 computers in the company's stores. The artist has created a blog displaying the images.

After his servers received an image from what appeared to be an Apple technician who had traced the program and installed the software himself at the company's headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., McDonald realized his work had attracted the company's attention. At first, he thought Apple had Days later, four Secret Service agents visited his house with a search warrant for computer fraud. According to the report, they confiscated two computers, an iPod and two flash drives and notified him that Apple would contact him separately.

Source: Kyle McDonald

Source: Kyle McDonald

McDonald, who holds a master's degree in electronic arts, maintains that he hasn't broken any laws, although he does admit that his project might make some people uncomfortable. The artist noted that did receive permission from Apple's security guards to photograph in the store and first checked with customers about taking their photos with a camera. He also said people who do not want to be part of his project can ask to be removed.
][/url][/c]

What dummy. A significant invasion of privacy.

Yes artist is all he his capable of doing, but he needs help in thinking logically.
post #17 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by Constable Odo View Post

Interesting project, disastrous results.

Well said.
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post #18 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by Splash-reverse View Post

"can ask to be removed"...

What? After their pictures interacting with the computers have been taken? That is not ethical. Should be before! And he has a university degree?

BTW, do Appleinsider have the permission to show that two sample pictures by any mean? Seems like they have been chosen for a sensational purpose.

Hmmm, if it were me I think I would be demanding a few thousand for every photo of myself he displays.
post #19 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiggin View Post

I believe installing software on someone else's computer without their consent constitutes computer fraud. The fact that he took pictures in the store may or may not be a separate offense. That he is defending himself for taking the photos, either with a camera or via the computes, as if that's what he's in trouble for, just shows how ignorant he is. The photos will be the least of his worries.

Well, the Macs are actually there to Be testet out. If the Artists Test was to See if the Software Works then it is Not fraud. And everyone who Used them Saw that the Camera light was Lit up. So: they got Warner, it was signaled that the Cam was on.

However, i am glad the Artist showed the Problem of a Built in Camera. Theoretically it can be switched on at any Time - remotely. We all forget about it, but it's a fact. And in this case apple is to blame, because they don't even design the cam so that you can close the camera hole with a sliding element (or so)...
post #20 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by 8CoreWhore View Post

The fact is, he altered property that was not his own without permission and cost the company and government money trying to sort it all out.

Lesson: Get a real craft. Hone it. Master it. Then you can be an artist. Until then, guys like this are a bunch of nits.


You are wrong! The computers have no password, no protection. They are there to be tested and used. The problem was that the computer kept being in the same state like after his software was started. He could have "forget" about closing it. We are now reminded that every computer with a camera can take pictures of us. That is an artist compatible issue.

Ps: you are not the one who can tell Tyne guy to get a real craft. Your statement shows disrespect to art and artists.
post #21 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by bodypainter View Post

Your statement shows disrespect to art and artists.

To be called an artist, you'd figure that the person would at least have to be doing something artistic. Any talentless hobo or person born with zero artistic skills can install spyware on a bunch of computers and snap photos of people without their knowledge every 60 seconds. There is no artistic skill involved in that. Recording a great song, painting a masterpiece, writing a book, creating a game, those are all things that require artistic talent. This foolish computer stunt requires no such talent whatsoever and since there is no artistry involved at all, the person can hardly be called an artist, because that is an even greater insult to art and to real artists.
post #22 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

At first, he thought Apple had Days later, four Secret Service agents visited his house with a search warrant for computer fraud.

WTF does that sentence mean?
post #23 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by _Hawkeye_ View Post

WTF does that sentence mean?

lmao
post #24 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

To be called an artist, you'd figure that the person would at least have to be doing something artistic. Any talentless hobo or person born with zero artistic skills can install spyware on a bunch of computers and snap photos of people without their knowledge every 60 seconds. There is no artistic skill involved in that. Recording a great song, painting a masterpiece, writing a book, creating a game, those are all things that require artistic talent. This foolish computer stunt requires no such talent whatsoever and since there is no artistry involved at all, the person can hardly be called an artist, because that is an even greater insult to art and to real artists.

And thus the question, what is art? To me art is an expression of ones self emotion. What they are thinking, what they are wanting, what they are needing, what they arefeeling, what they are smelling, what they are hearing. I use to go to the Museum of Modern Arts and thinking to myself, this canvas with nothing but black paint is NOT art but then I came to realize that art is of the senses, your own senses. In this case, it is interactive art, voyeuristic art.

Am I defending Kyle McDonald? No. Am I defending art? Yes.
post #25 of 100
Quote:
. At first, he thought Apple had Days later, four Secret Service agents visited his house with a search warrant for computer fraud. According to the report, they confiscated two computers, an iPod and two flash drives and notified him that Apple would contact him separately.

This doesn't make sense.

There are only two kind of people in this world.

Those who dont understand Apple and those who misunderstood Apple.

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There are only two kind of people in this world.

Those who dont understand Apple and those who misunderstood Apple.

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post #26 of 100
Quote:
I asked the Apple store security if it was ok to take pictures, but did not specify the means of taking photos. They said it was good, and encouraged me to take photos.

Somehow, I don't think this is what the store security had in mind as taking photos. It just doesn't sound like the guy has a lot of street sense about him. I wouldn't be surprised if a reading of the law in this circumstance can interpret this as computer hacking (installation of unauthorized software) and espionage (covertly recording information and sending it to a secret location for later examination). The only difference is broader intent.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bodypainter View Post

You are wrong! The computers have no password, no protection. They are there to be tested and used. The problem was that the computer kept being in the same state like after his software was started. He could have "forget" about closing it. We are now reminded that every computer with a camera can take pictures of us. That is an artist compatible issue.

If it was just one or two computers, OK. Other stories said he installed it on hundreds of computers, and he went back to reinstall the software after routine computer wipes. To say he "forgot" to remove it doesn't really fly on the plausibility meter. And then there's the matter of the computer being set to send photographs to some undisclosed remote location, I can see why it would look like espionage.

If the computers aren't set to restrict the installation of software, then I expect that to change.
post #27 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by bodypainter View Post

Well, the Macs are actually there to Be testet out. If the Artists Test was to See if the Software Works then it is Not fraud. And everyone who Used them Saw that the Camera light was Lit up. So: they got Warner, it was signaled that the Cam was on.

However, i am glad the Artist showed the Problem of a Built in Camera. Theoretically it can be switched on at any Time - remotely. We all forget about it, but it's a fact. And in this case apple is to blame, because they don't even design the cam so that you can close the camera hole with a sliding element (or so)...

You are wrong on several levels. People have right to expect that their privacy is protected. Then, you can not test your softever on any computer, other then yours, without asking for permission, even if it is a test unit, in this case a showcase unit. Finaly, most of store attendants are new Apple customers, and many of them are not aware of every aspect of those computers (camera indicators and others) and they are the tricked ones. At the end you have a prospective buyer, who suddenly became a showpiece all over the internet, and that is a very bad from Apple perspective.
post #28 of 100
First the first posts in that thread are very much akin to "he should be shot", which itself is fascinating (Hey, Apple is that think-different-company, with the black-turtleneck-and-jeans-ceo who went to India, experimented with LSD, you know "countercultural"... it's supposed to be the "open-Minded" company, so stop being stuck-up right-wing douchebaggy conservatives... or don't post, at least ).

Second, this is really interesting: what's art, what's the limits of art, is intent more important than acts themselves (if you kill someone with a gun accidentally, your sentence is not the same as if you kill someone with your car on purpose, so intent is by law very important).

I hope that guy gets away with it, just because it's an interesting project, and also because what he did was not really that bad. Sony has done way worse for the money with their trojan horse, a decade ago... Don't plead for the destruction of a young (and possibly dimwitted) guy's life, this is just not nice...

By the way, my Mom's got a black opaque plastic thingy over her camera... it's ugly, but it makes her feel safer

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Social Capitalist, dreamer and wise enough to know I'm never going to grow up anyway... so not trying anymore.

 

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post #29 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

It was a douchebag thing to do and he looks like a douchebag too.


... but it's art! Are you a neanderthal or something?
post #30 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by lightknight View Post

First the first posts in that thread are very much akin to "he should be shot", which itself is fascinating

Not akin except by the slight degree, please don't exaggerate like that.

Quote:
(Hey, Apple is that think-different-company, with the black-turtleneck-and-jeans-ceo who went to India, experimented with LSD, you know "countercultural"... it's supposed to be the "open-Minded" company, so stop being stuck-up right-wing douchebaggy conservatives... or don't post, at least ).

Much of that is four decades ago. Apple has long ceased to be countercultural to that degree. I don't think a casually dressed tech CEO is countercultural anymore. Having taken LSD in the 60's doesn't in itself mean anything now in 2011.

Quote:
Second, this is really interesting: what's art, what's the limits of art, is intent more important than acts themselves (if you kill someone with a gun accidentally, your sentence is not the same as if you kill someone with your car on purpose, so intent is by law very important).

I hope that guy gets away with it, just because it's an interesting project, and also because what he did was not really that bad. Sony has done way worse for the money with their trojan horse, a decade ago...

Sony was punished to varying degrees, they lost lawsuits and settled class action suits too. But I agree they should have been dealt with more strictly.

Intent is important, but as you suggest, lack of intent doesn't always eliminate the burden of having broken the law, if it is punished, it is usually factored in for a lesser punishment depending on the circumstances in question.

Quote:
Don't plead for the destruction of a young (and possibly dimwitted) guy's life, this is just not nice...

I don't think he'll get the full force of the law, I hope not. But his statements are jaw-droppingly ignorant, or ridiculously weasely, hard to decide which. I don't understand how he could hear "OK to take pictures" and then decide that means it's OK to install software on computers he doesn't own (was he not taught respect for property?) to take and transmit pictures to a remote location. It's surprising to see someone supposedly educated but so completely oblivious to possible legal ramifications. Don't they cover legal issues as part of an art degree? Art is more than just taking art classes.
post #31 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

To be called an artist, you'd figure that the person would at least have to be doing something artistic.

Damien Hirst is probably the best selling living artist, he never makes his own works, he just describes the idea to one of his team and has them fabricate it. Oh and on several occasions those ideas have turned out to be copies of other people's work such as his anatomical dummy.

Turns out there's no real talent requirement to be an artist, you just have to decide to be one.
post #32 of 100
I wouldn't call it art, more like a science experiment. But still an interesting idea, and I hope he doesn't get in too much trouble for it. I wonder if the Secret Service were concerned about identity theft, because if he's taking their photo maybe he's recording their keystrokes (passwords etc) too. I somehow doubt this is the case, and think they will let him go once they have inspected the software.
post #33 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by _Hawkeye_ View Post

WTF does that sentence mean?

Wonder if Ai are still looking for an editor? Methinks it is time.
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post #34 of 100
I for one am getting really sick and tired of having to "opt-out" of things like this. Facebook face recognition? It's on unless you "opt-out"! People uploading photos of you to facebook and tagging them? It's on unless you "opt-out". People soliciting your cell phone? It's on unless you "opt-out". There really needs to be some changes about this stuff.

 

 

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post #35 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by bodypainter View Post

Well, the Macs are actually there to Be testet out. If the Artists Test was to See if the Software Works then it is Not fraud. And everyone who Used them Saw that the Camera light was Lit up. So: they got Warner, it was signaled that the Cam was on.

However, i am glad the Artist showed the Problem of a Built in Camera. Theoretically it can be switched on at any Time - remotely. We all forget about it, but it's a fact. And in this case apple is to blame, because they don't even design the cam so that you can close the camera hole with a sliding element (or so)...

You are wrong on almost every point in your post. Only in a world of fantasy would any of your arguments have any legal merit whatsoever. Just because the computers are there for users to try out does not give you permission to install anything on them. And the fact that he installed the software on many, many computers shows that his intent was not to "test" anything. His intent was to abuse his access to Apple's property.

And can you please point out where in the article it stays the camera was operated remotely? You say it's a "fact". Please show us this fact. Since you apparently failed to read the article the first time, let me help you out:

Quote:
McDonald installed his software, which captured photos every minute and sent them to a server, on roughly 100 computers in the company's stores. The artist has created a blog displaying the images.

The camera was not remotely activated. There was no remote hacking or control. The software was simply taking photos at intervals and sending them.

Your entire argument defending this guy is the same as the "open door defense". "Well judge, the victim left the door to his house open, so you can't blame me for robbing him."
post #36 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by bodypainter View Post

However, i am glad the Artist showed the Problem of a Built in Camera. Theoretically it can be switched on at any Time - remotely.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiggin View Post

And can you please point out where in the article it stays the camera was operated remotely? You say it's a "fact". Please show us this fact. Since you apparently failed to read the article the first time, let me help you out:

The camera was not remotely activated. There was no remote hacking or control. The software was simply taking photos at intervals and sending them.

Can you please try to understand what someone said before attacking him? He said, and I highlighted, theoretically. It was not an accusation that Kyle McDonald had that capability. It was a statement of something that someone can do hypothetically. Please don't complain that he's adding falsehoods to the story when it's clear you really didn't understand the point of that part of his post.
post #37 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by Feynman View Post

And thus the question, what is art? To me art is an expression of ones self emotion. What they are thinking, what they are wanting, what they are needing, what they arefeeling, what they are smelling, what they are hearing. I use to go to the Museum of Modern Arts and thinking to myself, this canvas with nothing but black paint is NOT art but then I came to realize that art is of the senses, your own senses. In this case, it is interactive art, voyeuristic art.

Am I defending Kyle McDonald? No. Am I defending art? Yes.

Well said.
post #38 of 100
I hope these threats don't force Apple to lock down their demo Macs.
Dick Applebaum on whether the iPad is a personal computer: "BTW, I am posting this from my iPad pc while sitting on the throne... personal enough for you?"
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Dick Applebaum on whether the iPad is a personal computer: "BTW, I am posting this from my iPad pc while sitting on the throne... personal enough for you?"
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post #39 of 100
I asked the guard if I could pee in the store, and he said yes....
post #40 of 100
When I worked at an Apple Store in the first year or two they were open, it was standard practice to erase and restore every computer in the store every night after closing. This effectively minimized shenanigans such as this. It was a pain in the ass, and no one wanted to have do it (walk around with a LaCie portable hard drive and plug in to each Mac and wait). If they discontinued this practice to save time and money, then it just bit them. One would think that today it could be done remotely on the local network, which makes me wonder why it wasn't done.
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