The federal government is requesting data from Apple and Google for users of a gun scope app, in an unprecedented power-grab that would violate the privacy rights of thousands of individuals as apart of a gun control crackdown by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Forbes broke the story earlier today. The DOJ filed an application for a court order on Thursday to obtain information regarding Obsidian 4, an app devised by American Technologies Network Corp (ATN) to modify gun scopes.
Obsidian 4 allows users to live stream, record video, and adjust their gun scope using an Android or IPhone device. It has over 10,000 users on Android, with the number of users being unknown on IPhone. The DOJ wants access to all of these records to investigate possible violations of federal weapons export rules.
Privacy rights advocates believe that this move is unconstitutional and would set a dangerous precedent that could be used to profile law-abiding citizens.
“Such orders need to be based on suspicion and be particularized—this is neither,” said Edin Omanovic, who runs Privacy International’s State Surveillance program, adding that the move is a sweep of “huge amounts of innocent people’s personal data.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is investigating multiple reports of illegal exports of the ATN’s scope and believes that having access to the data will allow them to see where it is being shipped. ICE is using their resources to enforce regulations under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), when those resources could be used to detain and deport illegal immigrants flooding across the U.S. southern border.
“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,” the DOJ order reads.
If the order is approved, Apple and Google would hand over users of the app and potentially their IP addresses and telephone numbers to authorities. While the DOJ and ICE may be well-intentioned, this type of infringement could be used to gain intelligence about lawful gun owners under a Democratic administration.
“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,” attorney and privacy rights advocate Tor Ekeland said.
“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. They don’t have any probable cause to investigate, but they’re getting access to data on them,” Ekeland added.
Liberal-dominated San Francisco has already declared the National Rifle Association (NRA) to be a terrorist organization in a resolution passed earlier this week.
“The National Rifle Association spreads propaganda that misinforms and aims to deceive the public about the dangers of gun violence,” the resolution reads.
The Trump administration may be opening up Pandora’s Box with this overreaching move to enforce federal gun control regulations.
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