US orders Apple to identify users of rifle scope app

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random riflescope
Justice officials have their sights set on a lot of private data.
Photo: Captaindan/Wikimedia CC

The Department of Justice has ordered Apple and Google to turn over names, phone numbers and IP addresses for users of a gun scope app that allows gun owners to calibrate scopes and capture video.

Data privacy activists say the government’s ask would set a “dangerous precedent,” giving officials access to data on thousands of innocent people.

News of the DOJ order, filed in federal court this morning, was published by Forbes magazine, which reported it as the single-biggest demand of the data of users of a single app.

Gun scope app user info in DOJ crosshairs

The riflescope is made by American Technologies Network Corp., and the app, ATN Obsidian 4, has more than 10,000 downloads on the Google Play site. Apple does not disclose download figures. Neither company has issued a statement.

Apple is likely to defy the order based on privacy grounds. In 2016, Apple refused to create “backdoor” access to the phone of the San Bernardino shooter, fearing it would weaken security for all Apple device users.

Justice officials issued today’s order on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement as part of an investigation into illegal exports of the scope. ICE has intercepted illegal shipments of the score, according to the Forbes report and officials want user data to find out where scopes have been shipped.

Forbes obtained a copy of the sealed document. The order reads in part: “… 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 danger is the government will go on this fishing expedition and they’ll see information unrelated to what they weren’t looking for and go after someone for something else,” Tor Ekeland, a privacy lawyer, told Forbes. “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.”

Source: Forbes