DOJ Invades App Users

PUBLISHED: 3:22 PM 9 Sep 2019
UPDATED: 3:23 PM 9 Sep 2019

Government Demands Apple, Google Hand Over Personal Info On 10,000 App Users

In an unprecedented move, the DOJ is demanding that Google and Apple turn over the personal information of everyone who has used a specific hunting app.

They want the private info of everyone who has ever used it. (Image credit: Obsidian 4)

When Attorney General William Barr took over for Jeff Sessions, many people were worried about his ideas on the Second Amendment.

Now, it seems that the Department of Justice wants the personal information of every person who has used a specific gun scope app.

The first of its kind, the demand is causing outrage among gun owners, who claim the request is a violation of privacy and everything decent.

Breitbart News reported:

The U.S. Government is asking Apple and Google to hand over information on gun owners who have a scope on their rifles and use an app called Obsidian 4.

Forbes reports  the Department of Justice filed “an application for a court order” on September 5, 2019, the goal of which is to have information released on Obsidian 4 users.

Obsidian 4 “allows gun owners to get a live stream, take video and calibrate their gun scope from an Android or iPhone device,” according to the report.

That’s because the government wants Apple and Google 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.

Forbes indicates the information is being sought to aid Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in tracking illegal exports of a night vision scope made by American Technologies Network Corp. But Edin Omanovic, who is with Privacy International’s State Surveillance program, says the information grab means “innocent people’s personal data” will be released to the government.

Omanovic warned that the type of orders sought by the DOJ “need to be based on suspicion and be particularized,” but the attempt to gather information from Apple and Google is not.

On August 22, 2019, the Daily Caller reported that the Trump administration was “considering a proposal that would use Google, Amazon and Apple to collect data on users who exhibit characteristics of mental illness that could lead to violent behavior.” Such information would then reportedly be used in decisions on who should and should not be allowed to buy/possess firearms.

The Daily Caller cited a Washington Post report showing the data collection would fall under the auspices of “a new agency called the Health Advanced Research Projects Agency or HARPA.”

The Truth About Guns added:

Why is the DOJ concerned enough to want to Hoover up all that user data?

Night vision and thermal optics are highly controlled under ITAR regulations, so you have to figure this has something to do with exports of the technology.

Sure enough, according to Forbes . . .

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.

“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 government order reads. (The order was supposed to have been sealed, but Forbes obtained it before the document was hidden from public view).

So the .gov is investigating allegedly non-ITAR compliant exports of these sophisticated scopes. Exported by whom, isn’t clear. ITAR-regulated product manufacturers such as ATN take these export restrictions very seriously.

These scopes are sold by retailers all over the country such as Bass Pro, Sportsman’s Guide, Optics Planet and many more, so there are a lot of downstream parties who may have exported the scopes, attracting the DOJ’s attention.

So the feds want all that personal data to locate overseas users.

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.

But the order from the DOJ demands all user data, not just those with IP addresses located outside the US. Which means a lot of perfectly legal users of ATN products — hog hunters and the like — will have their information turned over to the feds, too…assuming Apple and Google comply.

TTAG spoke to ATN and they provided us with this statement:

American Technologies Network Corp. (“ATN”) today learned of the possible existence of a federal order issued to Apple and Google to provide usernames regarding one of our products, the ATN Obsidian 4. ATN was unaware of these allegations until the publication of a Forbes magazine article entitled, “Exclusive: Feds Order Apple And Google To Hand Over Names Of 10,000+ Users Of A Gun Scope App”.

ATN has not been contacted by the Department of Justice, Apple, or Google.  ATN will protect its customers and their identifying data to the absolute extent possible under U.S. law. And, it will not provide any information regarding the identity of our customers to any third party unless specifically required by law.