DOJ Wants Apple, Google To Hand Over Names And Phone Numbers Of 10,000 App Users

from the government-still-in-the-pointless-acquisition-business dept

Let's hope this isn't the only scope discussed by the court handling this case, detailed here by Thomas Brewster of Forbes.

[T]he 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.

Well, "made public" might be overstating things. The DOJ did not want this made public but the document it wanted sealed made it to the public docket briefly before being disappeared by the court system. It targets users of the Obsidian 4 app, which controls rifle scopes made by American Technologies Network Corp.

What the government claims this is about barely seems connected to what it's asking for.

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.

Acquiring the data of thousands of innocent app users isn't going to benefit government investigators in any great way. Sifting through tons of garbage data doesn't make anyone's job any easier. What it will do is give the government a lot of information on people not suspected of engaging in criminal acts -- data it can hold onto indefinitely if no one's paying attention.

And it's a lot of information. The DOJ is seeking phone numbers and names linked to accounts that have downloaded the app. It also wants data on when users used the app. All this in furtherance of an investigation that doesn't seem to contain much investigating at this point.

It’s unclear just whom ICE is investigating. No public charges have been filed related to the company or resellers of its weapons tools.

With this data grab, the government will have a chance to explore its options. If investigating weapon manufacturers isn't proving fruitful, maybe someone else in the 10,000+ pool of "suspects" will prove to be a more interesting target. The government isn't above fishing for criminal activity when performing supposedly-targeted searches. And if it wanders too far afield from its original aim, it can always argue the "fish" at the end of its 10,000 lines would have been "inevitably discovered" during the course of its fishing expedition.

Unfortunately, we don't know (yet) whether this ridiculous data request was granted. If a judge somehow managed to sign off on this, there's a good chance it will be rethought once Google or Apple tell the government they're not going to be handing over massive amounts of data the government hasn't shown it needs, much less has earned access to.

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Filed Under: apps, doj, fishing expedition, gun scope, ice, obsidian 4, rifle scopes, weapons export
Companies: american technologies network corp., apple, atn, google

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2019 @ 6:35am


    They need something like DARPA to handle complex situations like this, perhaps they could call it APPARPA and it would fall under the newly created armed service called Internet Command.

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