U.S. Government Orders Apple and Google to Identify Users of a Gun Scope App

The U.S. government has ordered Apple and Google to disclose the names, phone numbers, and other information for “at least” 10,000 users of a gun scope app, reports Forbes.

An order filed from the Department of Justice requests info on people who use Obsidian 4, an app that controls rifle scopes made by American Technologies Network Corp. The app is designed to let gun owners get a live stream, take video, and calibrate their gun scope using a smartphone.

From the app’s App Store description:

The Obsidian 4 application is here to enhance your experience when using the ATN X-Sight 4K and/or the ThOR 4 product lines. This application connects your smart phone, or tablet, to your ATN device via Wifi. This connection allows you to watch a live video stream of your hunt on your smart phone or tablet. The Obsidian 4 app lets you to adjust/change the various settings on your ATN Smart scope, and review the images and videos stored on your scopes microSD card.

On Google Play, the app has more than 10,000 downloads. Since Apple doesn’t disclose iOS downloads, it’s not clear how many iPhone users have downloaded it.

Edin Omanovic, the lead on Privacy International’s State Surveillance program, told Forbes that the order had the potential to set a dangerous precedent, giving the government access to “huge amounts of innocent people’s personal data.”

The data is being sought because the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has launched a broad investigation into possible breaches of weapons export regulations, and is looking into illegal exports of the ATN scope used with the app. From the government order:

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.

Data on app users will allow ICE to determine where the scopes have been shipped, and the investigation comes after ICE intercepted illegal shipments on multiple occasions.

Apple, Google, and scope maker ATN did not respond to Forbes’ request for comment. The government is seeking the names and IP addresses of anyone who downloaded the scope app from August 1, 2017 to the current date.

Apple hasn’t received a similar request in the United States before, but an unnamed government previously requested data on 58 million users of a single app in a terrorist investigation, and Apple declined to provide the data. It’s not yet clear if Apple and Google will comply with the request in this case.

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