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.
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.