Feds order Apple and Google to hand over names of 10,000+ users of a gun app

Apple and Google have been ordered by the U.S. government to hand over names, phone numbers and other identifying data of at least 10,000 users of a single gun scope app, Forbes has discovered.

Thomas Brewster for Forbes:

It’s an unprecedented move: Never before has a case been disclosed in which American investigators demanded personal data of users of a single app from Apple and Google. And never has an order been made public where the feds have asked the Silicon Valley giants for info on so many thousands of people in one go.

According to a court order filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on September 5, investigators want information on users of Obsidian 4, a tool used to control rifle scopes made by night-vision specialist American Technologies Network Corp. The app allows gun owners to get a live stream, take video and calibrate their gun scope from an Android or iPhone device. According to the Google Play page for Obsidian 4, it has more than 10,000 downloads. Apple doesn’t provide download numbers, so it’s unclear how many iPhone owners have been swept up in this latest government data grab.

If Apple and Google decide to hand over the information, it could include data on thousands of people who have nothing to do with the crimes being investigated, privacy activists warned. Edin Omanovic, lead on Privacy International’s State Surveillance program, said the order would set a dangerous precedent and scoop up “huge amounts of innocent people’s personal data… Such orders need to be based on suspicion and be particularized — this is neither.”

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) department is seeking information as part of a broad investigation into possible breaches of weapons export regulations. It’s looking into illegal exports of ATN’s scope, though the company itself isn’t under investigation, according to the order.

Apple and Google have been told to hand over not just the names of anyone who downloaded the scope app from August 1, 2017 to the current date, but their telephone numbers and IP addresses too, which could be used to determine the location of the user. The government also wants to know when users were operating the app.

MacDailyNews Take: This is a ridiculously overreaching fishing expedition perched atop very slippery slope that Apple, at least, needs to fight forcefully. Google, as is their modus operandi, might copy Apple and inadvertently do the right thing, too.

If this crap is allowed to happen, what’s to stop the government from requesting names, phone numbers and other identifying data of, say, Tinder, Apple’s Health app, etc.?

Can you imagine the gall of the DOJ geniuses who whipped up this court order? They really need to take a break and read The Constitution of the United States.


  1. Combine this with the business about using Apple Watch data to “predict” future crimes and you get a grasp of just how dangerous the Federal Government is becoming.

    1. You don’t understand. It isn’t the government that’s dangerous… it’s just the current administration. And, for once, they’re doing the kind of thing they ought to be doing… to protect us… from ourselves… because they know better than we do… even though we elected them.

    2. Federal government overreach was a crowning jewel of President Obama’s administration. Let us review the top four:

      1- Spying on the Trump campaign during the election cycle inspired by Cooked Hillary and a false Russian dossier her campaign payed for approved by discredited Comey, who used a friend to leak secret conversations to the NYT, to cover his ass and damage the president. The result was a TOTALLY USELESS 2+ year investigation that wasted $35 million taxpayer dollars to EXONERATE President Trump.

      2- The UNAFFORDABLE Health Care Act that doubled and tripled premiums and no, you could not keep your doctor in most cases the Obama BIG LIES. Certainly the brainless House Speaker Pelosi That famously said, let’s pass it before we read what is in the bill. Bill forced the federal government to mandate ALL citizens buy health insurance and if you do not — the newly hired 11,000 IRS agents will pay you a visit. Bad provision now history, thanks to the leadership of President Trump.

      3- Fast and Furious gambit wasting millions of taxpayer dollars arming illegal criminals and drug dealer gangs that wound up killing U.S. Border Patrol agents. Eric Holder was DEFIANT and not held accountable to this day for his EPIC mistake. He did resign in disgrace.

      4- And let’s not forget Lois Lerner of the IRS that TARGETED 501C conservative groups, mostly Tea Party related, then stalked or denied their tax status right before an election to put the Democrat thumb on the election scale. To this day, Lerner pleaded the fifth and has not be held accountable for government OVERREACH.

      All that said and pay attention — the current administration DOJ could not be more WRONG on this latest OVERREACH of the federal government. It is just as wrong as the many sins during the Obama administration and must be STOPPED!…

        1. Excepting for the fact it is true especially on the 1st point, you’d not come off as an irrational hyper-partisan. The foreign agent who proffered the dossier admitted it AGES ago, and is in a lot of trouble with his government.

        2. “None of that is true”??? HA! 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

          Please tell us the many RECORD ECONOMIC NUMBERS of the Trump administration are also not true.

          All of it is true – YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!

          PARTISAN eyes and mind BLIND SHUT ala CNN, NYT, WP, ABC, MSNBC, et al. I know your type. If you don’t read it in the liberal media you worship it is not true. If it is reported in the conservative media you do not weigh and judge it honestly. INSTANT DUMP because you are totally INCAPABLE of weighing all angles of a story and making a fair non-partisan determination.

          The modus operandi of the liberal activist TXUSER, so typical of the clueless LEFT.

          Grande yawn…

      1. Talk about MISDIRECTION. The subject is a plan for the Government to plant bugs in every bit of wearable electronics in the country and use the harvested data to round up people that the Government regards as a threat. The Trumpist sycophants cannot possibly justify that, so they play the Whataboutism game, hoping that the rest of us are as stupid as they obviously think we are. Stop changing the subject (now where have I heard that before).

        1. Possibly as you say. Before I go there however, is the search “reasonable” so a judge can approve it with a warrant? What evidence does the government provide to support the search?

          I don’t support abolishing guns, that violates the 2nd amendment. I do believe in eventual licensure (through a new Amendment) and that ought to include all goods and services directly related to guns.

        2. This isn’t about guns or the Second Amendment. The issue is about exporting technology without a license. That the item in question is a firearm accessory is coincidental. Collecting information on thousands of people without any showing that they are connected to a crime is a frightening pattern.

      2. So…Sad Sycophant GoeB, instead of addressing why 10,000 users need to film themselves with their alpha male lethal dick extension devices, instead posts four ridiculous conspiracy meme ‘whataboutisms’
        I am truly going to enjoy reality crushing your witless posturing just as your idol mumpsimus-in-chief is finding out. All credibility left the room with #SharpieGate.

    1. If you had, I don’t know, bothered to read the article itself, you would have discovered EXACTLY what they were looking for: export sales of a device that isn’t licensed for export.

      Frankly, I’m not sure requesting all info on every user of an app is the best way to solve the problem, but it’s not like the Trump administration (of all people) were trying to grab your precious guns.

  2. Reading the whole story, it’s clear why the government is asking for the data: this device is apparently illegal to sell outside the country (probably because of the obvious military applications).

    “The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) department is seeking information as part of a broad investigation into possible breaches of weapons export regulations. It’s looking into illegal exports of ATN’s scope, though the company itself isn’t under investigation, according to the order. As part of that, investigators are looking for a quick way to find out where the app is in use, as that will likely indicate where the hardware has been shipped. ICE has repeatedly intercepted illegal shipments of the scope, which is controlled under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), according to the government court filing. They included shipments to Canada, the Netherlands and Hong Kong where the necessary licenses hadn’t been obtained.’

    1. That same argument could be used to justify warrantless searches of people’s homes looking for scopes that might be exported. The Fourth Amendment forbids general warrants to search a large number of subjects based on mere suspicion without particularized probable cause.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.