New York artist investigated over Apple Store spyware project

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
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 we?re not interacting with anybody, we?re interacting with the machine,? McDonald said of the project. ?Even if there are a lot of people in the room at the Apple store, you?re not interacting with them. If something weird happens, you don?t 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."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 99
    captmarkcaptmark Posts: 41member
    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!!
  • Reply 2 of 99
    mdriftmeyermdriftmeyer Posts: 7,501member
    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.
  • Reply 3 of 99
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    Is it any different to the way people stare at TV?
  • Reply 4 of 99
    wigginwiggin Posts: 2,265member
    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.
  • Reply 5 of 99
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,217member
    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
  • Reply 6 of 99
    "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.
  • Reply 7 of 99
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 9,233member
    It was a douchebag thing to do and he looks like a douchebag too.



  • Reply 8 of 99
    island hermitisland hermit Posts: 6,217member
    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...
  • Reply 9 of 99
    constable odoconstable odo Posts: 1,041member
    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.
  • Reply 10 of 99
    mac_dogmac_dog Posts: 879member
    oops.
  • Reply 11 of 99
    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?
  • Reply 12 of 99
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 9,233member
    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
  • Reply 13 of 99
    8corewhore8corewhore Posts: 833member
    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.



  • Reply 14 of 99
    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.
  • Reply 15 of 99
    joshajosha Posts: 901member
    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.
  • Reply 16 of 99
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,435member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Constable Odo View Post


    Interesting project, disastrous results.



    Well said.
  • Reply 17 of 99
    radjinradjin Posts: 165member
    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.
  • Reply 18 of 99
    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)...
  • Reply 19 of 99
    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.
  • Reply 20 of 99
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 9,233member
    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.
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