DOJ wants Apple, Google to relinquish user data of rifle scope app

Posted:
in General Discussion edited September 2019
As part of an investigation into potential weapons export violations, the U.S. Department of Justice is demanding both Apple and Google furnish user information for a rifle scope monitoring and control app, a move that could impact well over 10 thousand people.




Detailed in an application for a court order filed on Thursday, the DOJ seeks names, phone numbers, IP addresses and other personal data of iOS and Android users who downloaded the Obsidian 4 app, reports Forbes.

The app, developed by American Technologies Network Corp, enables owners to connect to and control rifle scopes manufactured by the same company, specifically models in the ATN X-Sight 4K and ThOR 4 product lines. With Obsidian 4, users can connect to a compatible scope via Wi-Fi and stream live video, review images and movies stored on the scope's microSD card and adjust hardware settings.

As noted by Forbes, the app has been downloaded over 10,000 times on the Google Play store. Usage figures for iOS are unknown, as Apple does not disclose iOS App Store numbers.

If successful, the order would net the government an enormous amount of private user information in one fell swoop, including data of consumers who are not participating in illegal activity. According to the report, the proposed order is unprecedented in its scale, at least compared to similar requests that have been made public.

The DOJ is issuing the order to assist in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigation of illegal exports of ATN scopes. According to the filing, which has since been sealed, investigators hope to use app user data to determine where the hardware was shipped, including to countries that lack proper International Traffic in Arms Regulation licenses.

ATN is not under investigation, meaning a third party is responsible the illegal export activity.

"This pattern of unlawful, attempted exports of this rifle scope in combination with the manner in which the ATN Obsidian 4 application is paired with this scope manufactured by Company A supports the conclusion that the information requested herein will assist the government in identifying networks engaged in the unlawful export of this rifle scope through identifying end users located in countries to which export of this item is restricted," the order reads.

As the broad request trawls for information, it would inevitably rope in private citizens not connected to the investigation. Privacy advocates and experts in the sector caution that granting the DOJ such authority would set a dangerous precedent.

"The idea that this data will only be used for pursuing ITAR violations is almost laughable," said former NSA analyst turned cybersecurity consultant Jake Williams. "Google and Apple should definitely fight these requests as they represent a very slippery slope. This type of bulk data grab is seriously concerning for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the download of an application does not automatically imply the intended use' of the application. For instance, researchers often bulk download applications looking for interesting vulnerabilities."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    thrangthrang Posts: 893member
    Apple will fight this to a point, at least to where they make the legitimate concern about non-criminally specific data exposure clear to the courts to let them debate it and cite applicable laws. This helps protect Apple as an entity as well their customers. But if the courts say it is a legally binding request, Apple needs to comply. This is an issue for citizens to raise with law-making elected officials, not for private companies to decide.
    JWSCwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 27
    Shouldn’t they instead provide a legal demand from the app developer for only those non-US registrants/users of the app? Apple should tell them to take a hike.
    franklinjackconemoellerStrangeDaysdonjuanviclauyycuraharaentropyswatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 27
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 2,446member
    Seems to me that it would be possible for Apple to determine which users are using the app outside of “legal” countries and should only be required to pass along that data.

    Is the DOJ not aware these companies may have that ability?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 27
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 2,446member

    Shouldn’t they instead provide a legal demand from the app developer for only those non-US registrants/users of the app? Apple should tell them to take a hike.

    A phone could be registered in the US and taken outside of the country... so basing it off country of origin does not help. Basing it off where the user and/or phone is currently located makes more sense. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 27
    FolioFolio Posts: 698member
    Not familiar with this app. But some of the top 20 apps in Navigation category have dual-use capability. I got one (Spyglass) which uses AR to help navigate off trails. If Apple succumbs to this broad request, when will it stop?
    donjuanwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 27
    No crime, no way. Privacy rights are designed to protect against over-zealous fishing expeditions by cops. 
    donjuangeorgie01pujones1entropyscornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 27
    I'm wondering if Apple gives all its customers (eg, Apple Store users) from foreign countries all the same protections as it gives Americans. For example if people from Iran (which is generally a hostile country to US interests) downloaded the app, would Apple be more willing to provide their names to the US government? Or does Apple treat all foreigners with the same protection and privacy as it does Americans? I'm not sure what the best answer is here, but I don't think US law would oblige Apple to protect non-Americans the same as it does Americans. If Apple wants all foreigners to have the same protections as Americans, I would like Apple to explain that publicly. 
  • Reply 8 of 27
    mjtomlin said:

    Shouldn’t they instead provide a legal demand from the app developer for only those non-US registrants/users of the app? Apple should tell them to take a hike.

    A phone could be registered in the US and taken outside of the country... so basing it off country of origin does not help. Basing it off where the user and/or phone is currently located makes more sense. 
    The point being that broad attempts to scoop up data on American citizens is unconstitutional.
    georgie01chasmcornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 27
    Nope.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 27
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,648member
    Check out the ratings for this app: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/atn-obsidian-4/id1337731256 1.7 74 ratings so at least 74 people bothered to rate it and almost all are bad.

    --
    This is the Future of Optics!

    The Obsidian 4 application is here to enhance your experience when using the ATN X-Sight 4K and/or
    the ThOR 4 product lines. This application connects your smart phone, or tablet, to your ATN device via
    Wifi. This connection allows you to watch a live video stream of your hunt on your smart phone or
    tablet. The Obsidian 4 app lets you to adjust/change the various settings on your ATN Smart scope, and
    review the images and videos stored on your scopes microSD card.
    Download the Obsidian 4 app today and Unlock the true potential of your Obsidian 4 device!
    --

    I don't see anywhere in this description where it says it can control the gun, it only allows control of the viewing of the scope. I dislike guns but this is just a scope and could just as easily be altered for use on a regular telescope. Is the DOJ going after those as well?

    pujones1watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 27
    rob53 said:
    I don't see anywhere in this description where it says it can control the gun, it only allows control of the viewing of the scope. I dislike guns but this is just a scope and could just as easily be altered for use on a regular telescope. Is the DOJ going after those as well?

    This has nothing to do with whether or not it can control a gun.  This is about possible violations of export regulations related to International Traffic in Arms Regulation and/or Export Administration Regulations.  There are a whole host of items that can't be legally exported to certain countries or regions.  This scope is one of them.  

    Neither Apple nor Google should acquiesce.  The scope (pun intended) of this request if far too wide.  It's a glorified fishing expedition.  A whole lot of innocent people could end up as bycatch in that big ass net.


    edited September 2019 bigtdsentropys
  • Reply 12 of 27
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 1,735member
    I despise guns. 
    But this is an absurd request from the government. 
    Get a name and a warrant and Apple will listen to you. Otherwise F-off.
    danhpujones1Rayz2016watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 27
    So DOJ is afraid to go after the Gun/scopes maker. But choose a soft target, apple/google?

    they must be afraid of NRA?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 27
    The U.S is the #1 arms dealer to the world.  We’re selling billions of dollars worth of weapons (every year) to countries with terrible records on human rights, but we’re worried about scopes?

    Un @#$& believable...

    Might want to find out if weapons are sold to unstable individuals (they are) in the states first... and a thousand other things, before worrying about scopes.

    This is about setting precedence in violating individuals rights to privacy, not about scopes. 
    DAalsethentropysmuthuk_vanalingamhucom2000watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 27
    macguimacgui Posts: 2,048member
    viclauyyc said:
    So DOJ is afraid to go after the Gun/scopes maker. But choose a soft target, apple/google?

    they must be afraid of NRA?
    Geeeze.  The DOJ isn't afraid of anybody. How do you possibly come to that conclusion. The manufacturer doesn't have the info they want as listed in the article, so why waste time with them. A huge fishing expedition, and amassing a huge database.
    razorpitwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 27
    roakeroake Posts: 765member
    Shouldn’t they instead provide a legal demand from the app developer for only those non-US registrants/users of the app? Apple should tell them to take a hike.
    As an app developer, you receive no identifying information about people that download your app.  Unless the developer requires some sort of registration (and how could they guarantee real info was listed?), what could they give in response to a government request?

    That being said, Apple needs to tell them to go screw themselves.  As was stated, people can download the app out of curiosity, misunderstanding, or any other reason, and it doesn’t mean they are exporting prohibited scopes.  There is no good reason those people need to be suspects in an investigation just because the government is lazy.  The government needs to get off their asses and actually investigate something instead of hoping that they can get Apple or Google just to give them a list.
    cornchipSpamSandwichwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 27
    davendaven Posts: 626member
    I'm not an attorney but I don't see how this demand would hold up in court as it seems overly broad. It would be like a local DA demanding that a chain that sells guns demand a list of all the people who purchased guns from the chain across the USA because they are looking for potential gun sales that may be used in a crime in their local jurisdiction. Also, the program isn't restricted from export. Just the sight is.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 27
    Isn't this like asking bookstores to help find Waldo?
    cornchipbestkeptsecretwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 27
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,648member
    App data should be encrypted, so no discussion I think. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 27
    macguimacgui Posts: 2,048member
    roake said:
    There is no good reason those people need to be suspects in an investigation just because the government is lazy. 
    QED
    watto_cobra
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