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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.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)

10 weeks ago
I suspect and definitely hope that Apple will refuse to give over this information.
Rating: 72 Votes
10 weeks ago
This will be interesting. Publicly, Apple (or at least Tim Cook) has gone on about how he feels that gun control is a good thing. Well, now here comes some gun part control that interfaces with an Apple product. What is more important, privacy or gun control? I look forward to seeing how Apple handles this.
Rating: 31 Votes
10 weeks ago
How about no - apple
Rating: 28 Votes
10 weeks ago
well that is kinda scary
Rating: 26 Votes
10 weeks ago

why wouldn't the Gov't go "after" the app owners or the company the scopes are from and NOT the app stores themselves?


Doesn't make much sense....then again government.


Think about it: the company that made the scope didn't illegally export it. People who bought it exported it.

They are going after the "app owners". They're getting information on who "bought" the app.

This surely has to be denied. Otherwise whats next?
How about USA determines the real problem and stop selling guns to anyone? How is it that that the rest of the world can see that USA has a gun problem and yet the NRA lobby still protects their "silly" amendment?
So no, please Apple deny this.


This isn't a gun issue. It's an export control issue. Many things are export controlled, including IR cameras, fast computers and GPUs, machine tools, encryption software and hardware, computer firewalls, semiconductor equipment, etc. These are under an international agreement called the Wassenaar Arrangement.

A similar situation is a pile of GPUs ends up in Iran and the government obtains the IPs of people who downloaded the drivers for them.
Rating: 16 Votes
10 weeks ago
why wouldn't the Gov't go "after" the app owners or the company the scopes are from and NOT the app stores themselves?


Doesn't make much sense....then again government.
Rating: 14 Votes
10 weeks ago
Gun control vs Privacy. Puts Apple in an interesting position.
Rating: 14 Votes
10 weeks ago

This will be interesting. Publicly, Apple (or at least Tim Cook) has gone on about how he feels that gun control is a good thing. Well, now here comes some gun part control that interfaces with an Apple product. What is more important, privacy or gun control? I look forward to seeing how Apple handles this.

I'm all for proper gun control, but this isn't that. This is a privacy violation that happens to involve guns.

They asked for information on people who downloaded a gun app, which is way too broadly tailored to balance people's expectations of privacy with real gun controls.
Rating: 12 Votes
10 weeks ago
I guess anyone playing videos games are on a list already.
Rating: 10 Votes
10 weeks ago
No, just no.
Rating: 9 Votes

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