Feds Go Fishing Over A Gun Scope App

Feds Go Fishing Over A Gun Scope App

Feds Go Fishing Over A Gun Scope App

This sounds like something that San Francisco would like to do, given that they have been busy declaring the NRA a “domestic terrorist organization.” But this is the federal government, and this is infintely worse.

Forbes is reporting that the Department of Justice is seeking a court order to make Apple and Google turn over the data on anyone who has downloaded a specific gun scope app. Holy Big Brother, Batman.

According to an application for 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 could be swept up in this latest government data grab.”

If the court approves the demand, and 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 it would set a dangerous precedent and scoop up “huge amounts of innocent people’s personal data.”

That is the very definition of a fishing expedition. There couldn’t possibly be actual real-world application for downloading an app that allows for calibration of a specific gun scope, right? All 10,000 downloads are suspect, right? This is all at the request of ICE, who admits that the company itself isn’t under investigation, but they have intercepted the gun scopes.

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.”

So ICE’s rationale is that they want to find out who has downloaded the app, in order to track back who is illegally shipping the scopes themselves??

Nope. Nope nope nope nope nope. There is no way to spin this that doesn’t amount to a huge infringement on privacy, all for an app download. This isn’t even looking at the people who actually purchased said gun scope, JUST WHO DOWNLOADED THE APP. If the company isn’t under investigation for this, then why are the users of the app being targeted? ATN even offers YouTube videos on how to set up the app on different devices!

There has been no response to the story from Google or Apple so far, and I’m sure that the DOJ (who apparently got the order sealed just after Forbes got a copy of it, per their reporting) just wanted to lean on the two tech companies to get the information. “After all, it’s only 10,000 downloads! Don’t you want to help us catch bad guys, hmmm? What would people say if the next mass shooter used this gun scope app and YOU didn’t help us stop it?”

This is fishing and incrementalism at its worst. The feds want the information with no concrete cause, and if Apple and Google cave for just this app (because GUN SCOPE APP BAD), then what happens when it’s the next app (“we just want to know who downloaded OKCupid in the last month to catch this bad guy,”) or the next app (“which parents are using GPS tracker apps to watch their special needs children?”) or the next app (“Disney, we need to know who used your My Disney Experience Mobile app in the last year. Because reasons. Here’s the court order”).

First, let’s hope the court tells the feds no, and at least makes them come back with a better argument than this – and then still tells them no. And let’s hope that Apple and Google say no as well, or there will be no stopping the federal government from data mining the big tech companies for whatever whim strikes them. Big Brother, indeed.

Featured image via Pixabay, Pixabay license

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  • Scott says:

    The President needs to dump all of the DOJ and FBI and start over. They are proving daily that they’re corrupt top to bottom.. It’s amazing how much damage the progs have done.. As the saying goes, the Founder would have been shooting by now..

    • SDN says:

      As much as you’ll hate to admit it, Trump is not a God Emperor. He’s chained by civil service laws, and a court system that hates him.

      • Scott says:

        I don’t hate to admit it, that is as it should be, and you’re 100% correct about civil service and the court system.
        That being said, he should do all in his CONSTITUTIONAL powers to clean house. If my comments suggested that I think he is, or wish he was an emperor, then that’s just me being inarticulate. I believe that all three branches of govt need to return to their Constitutional duties, nothing more, nothing less.

  • GWB says:


    I’m going to withhold outrage for now.

    I don’t know what exactly is going on, but I’m going to guess they are looking for phones on those foreign networks. And they may not be able to narrow it down without a certain level of metadata. So, they use one level of metadata to get the next level, then the next level, etc.

    I would guess the company doesn’t retain info on who downloads their app (Google and Apple do, though!) because they don’t have spyware level of permissions in their app.

    I don’t yet think this is a fishing expedition. Exporting fancy killing tech (without the right licenses) is against the law. And this seems less intrusive than, say, searching your laptop when you re-enter the US of A from elsewhere.

    But, there’s also this … nagging feeling that the current denizens of DoJ-land are not as interested in protecting our rights as they used to be.

  • Jim says:

    I bought an ATN X sight II 3-14 scope a couple of weeks ago here in Australia and I understand that it can be linked to a fancy phone – I don’t own one – in some ways, e.g. by Wi Fi. It has GPS and all sorts of devices that a regular rifle scope does not have including the ability to set it to record video automatically at the pull of the trigger or at direct command. [On my first outing two nights ago I forgot to turn the video on when I shot a vixen in one of my fields. Human error strikes again!] On purchasing the scope I immediately contacted the ATN website and installed the newest computer programme. The sight [as well as more sophisticated variants] has been on the market for quite a few years now around the world. I gather this is another example of bureaucrats with nothing valid to do trying to look busy?

    As for using video when shooting many hunters like to record their hunts: there are countless videos on You Tube showing the view of the game being shot through the scope. I watch them as they give me a better understanding of the behaviour of the target animals and where the shooter is aiming for a clean kill. They’re very useful tutorials.

  • Drew458 says:

    I’m confused here. This $700 scope from ATN is one of the less expensive night vision rifle scopes out there. It’s what is called “Gen 1” technology, which mean “out of date”. Amazon sells it, and there is no export restriction on their page. Significantly better scopes, Gen 2, 3, and 4, which can cost up to around $5000, are labeled “Export of this product outside of the United States of America is not allowed and is controlled by the US Department of State “, but those hard core devices don’t seem to come with twitchy wifi apps. You can buy the unit our military uses, super expensive and usually always sold out; it doesn’t hook up to an app either.

    Gen 3 stuff can only be exported with permits. Gen 4 stuff can’t be exported at all.

    What I’m saying is, ATN does not seem to have a night vision scope that works with a phone app that has export restrictions.

    BUT … even if there was an export restricted scope that used this app, wouldn’t it just be easier for the foreigners it was illegally exported to, to just download the app from terrorist-land? Google Play is worldwide, isn’t it?

    • Jim says:

      As I suggested Drew458 this sounds like a bunch of bureaucrats with too much time on their hands looking for something to do to justify the wages they’re being paid and capitalising on the fact that ATN makes sights for firearms and the subject of firearms will always gain the attention of stupid journalists and opportunistic politicians.

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