In an unprecedented move, the Department of Justice has ordered Apple and Google to release all user data for an app that controls a high-end rifle scope. Obsidian 4, an app that controls a scope produced by American Technologies Network Corp, is the target of the data release. And the feds want everything – names, addresses, phone numbers, IP locations – of 10,000+ Android users and an unknown number of iOS users who have downloaded the application.
According to a court order filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on 5 September, 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 innocent people who have nothing to do with the crimes being investigated, privacy activists warned. Edin Omanovic, lead on Privacy International’s State Surveillance programme, 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,” Omanovic added.
Federal investigators will use the data they collect to locate smuggling rings of these scopes, which are illegal to ship abroad without proper licensing. According to the court filing, illegal shipments to other countries have been rampant and the DoJ hopes using app data to track use of the scopes will help them locate the sources of the smuggling rings.
But all data is being collected, including law-abiding American citizens. All users will be tracked.
This is a tremendous breach of trust by the U.S. government which goes well beyond privacy. There is already plenty of controversy surrounding our 2nd Amendment rights as gun owners, and to have the government tracking law-abiding citizens for the sake of a smuggling investigation is ludicrous.
They are not seeking information on app usage in other countries. They didn’t set criteria that would make users potentially involved in the smuggling ring. They ordered all app users’ data, a very dangerous move that if it becomes a trend could mean the tracking of essentially all mobile devices and their users in America.
This is a clear step towards Big Brother because the scale of the request is overly broad. It’s completely unnecessary, but here we are. The government’s ability to track Americans is at its highest level in history and it’s only getting worse every day. One does not have to be a conspiracy theorist or succumb to anti-government paranoia to realize this is overreach on the highest scale that can lead to much worse offenses against our privacy in the very near future.
“There’s a more profound issue here with the government able to vacuum up a vast amount of data on people they have no reason to suspect have committed any crime. They don’t have any probable cause to investigate but they’re getting access to data on them.” – Privacy Lawyer Tor Ekeland
There’s a very fine line between the government using technology to track bad guys and using it to track everyone. This action in unambiguously a step to collect mass user data on gun owners, law-abiding or not.
We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.
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