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Apple Store Artist Raided By Secret Service 376

Posted by timothy
from the innocent-whistling-at-very-high-pitch dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Artist Kyle McDonald wanted to create something that captured people's expressions as they stared at computers. So the 25-year-old artist installed a program on computers in two New York Apple Store locations that would automatically take a photo every minute of whoever was standing in front of the computer. McDonald then uploaded the photos to his Tumblr blog, 'People Staring at Computers,' made a video with the photographs, and set up 'an exhibition' at the Apple stores to show what he had found. Within days, the Secret Service, which investigates computer crimes, had raided McDonald's house, seizing his two laptops, two flash drives and iPod."
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Apple Store Artist Raided By Secret Service

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    art cannot be the new terrorism for justfying anything.

  • Double standards (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Joce640k (829181) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @07:56AM (#36703558) Homepage

    Where were they when that school in Merion installed spycam software on all the pupil's laptops to record them in their dormrooms?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This is a completely different situation. The issue is that the artist had no right to install software on a machine without the permission of the machine's owner. The school in Merlon installed (admittedly disgusting) software on computers they owned.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Joce640k (829181)

        The issue is that the artist had no right to install software

        Ah...it was the installation of some software that was the problem.

        Thanks for clearing that one up. The entire country was certainly at risk and getting the Secret Service involved was definitely the right thing to do. There's no way a local policeman could have reprimanded him.

        PS: I read the article before posting (hey, it's the way I roll!) and it mentions something about him asking permission before doing it.

        • by DJRumpy (1345787)

          Yes it mentions 'something'. It says he asked a few customers if he could take their pictures, although admittedly, he didn't ask all (per the article).

          McDonald protested that he had gotten the permission of a security guard to take photos in the stores, that he had asked several customers for permission to take their photos (though certainly not all of them), and that taking photos of people in a public place is mostly allowed anyway.

          The store, although publicly accessible is private property (privately ow

          • by cob666 (656740)
            Then why doesn't Apple lock down their computers so nothing can be installed on them. I understand that this guy crossed a line but it should be between him and Apple.
            • by Caraig (186934) *

              That's the odd thing about all this: They SHOULD have no ability to install software. They're set up to not allow that sort of thing to the walk-bys. When you walk up to a computer in the Apple Store, you are not logged in as an Administrator.

          • by Z00L00K (682162)

            So the simple way for this dude would have been to ask the storekeeper about permission. If given permission then it would have been sufficient to display a sign saying "camera monitored area". (every area today is in reality camera monitored - by mobile phones at least - so soon it may be easier to say when an area isn't.)

            In that case it may only have been a fact to concern about the people in the pictures, but as long as it's for artistic purposes there is some room. If the pictures were for commercial pu

          • by greenbird (859670)

            They certainly don't have a sign that says "Install whatever you like", and the article makes no mention that he asked permission to install such software. In short, he broke the law, and installed software which 'spies' on people without their consent.

            Wrong on so many levels. First they are publicly accessible machines on display specifically for public like people to use. So unless there was a sign saying "do not install software on these computers" I don't see how he did anything wrong. Second you need to show me the law that states it's illegal to install any software on private computers put out in public for use by the public. The only possible criminal case would be if he bypassed some sort of protection that was designed to prevent people from ins

        • Re:Double standards (Score:5, Interesting)

          by qwertyatwork (668720) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @10:08AM (#36704128)
          No I didn't read the article before posting. +1 slashdot points. The reason it was the secret service was probably due to jurisdiction. I had my house raided by the secret service in 1988 when I was phreaking calling cards. I had a lawyer tell me the reason it was the secret service was because the calling cards put it in their jurisdiction. I can't remember the exact reason, but something along the lines of calling cards are a promise of pay, or some other legal mumbo jumbo.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Who gives a fuck if they "owned" those laptops? It's irrelevant to the discussion.

        The point of all laws is to prevent harm. Granted, most laws nowadays seem to exist to create advantages for some asshats while causing harm for everybody else (like copyright), and so those laws are actually crimes themselves, but you know what I mean.

        Installing the software alone did no harm.
        The harm that was done in both cases, was the massive invasion of privacy.

        And the additional harm that was done in this case, was the s

    • Sony BMG (Score:3, Interesting)

      A better question is, where was the secret service when Sony was caught installing rootkits en masse?
    • Admin Privs?? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jpapon (1877296) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @09:34AM (#36703978) Journal
      I think the better question is how did this guy install software which accesses peripheral hardware (the webcam) without admin rights? I thought OSX was supposed to be so secure...
      • by DannyO152 (544940)

        Why is this marked interesting? ~/Applications/ is on the path. "Installation" is copying the executable to a directory and "running" is invoking from the command line using a fully qualified path. Put an entry in the login items and the program will run again at account login. No admin rights needed as Unix lets a user control her directories and run programs. This security hole is found every where. It's actually considered a feature, as in, "I have the right to run whatever program I want on hardware I o

    • by mrmeval (662166)

      He asked the door mat (security guard) for permission to use computers belonging to the Apple stores. Since he did not have permission of the computer owner he triggered this law.

      Since an Apple store is not a public place and he did not have the stores permission, the people he photographed who did not give their permission now have a civil right to sue him pursuant to the law.

      If he's affiliated with any college/school/museum or business they both may be guilty of conspiracy to commit a violation of the law

  • Some dumbass (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Installed a program on someone's else computer and now he's saying there's nothing wrong with this?
    • I went and installed a little FFT python TKinter script I wrote at the local store to see if it would run and what it would look like. I just plugged in my thumb drive and dragged over the script then ran it, so perhaps "install" is a strong word. I was so impressed with how the TKinter looked native on OSX I bought a macbook pro. I think my actions were completely legitimate. They have them there to try things so I did.

      I don't think computer crimes is the right thing to go after him for. The machines a

      • by westlake (615356)

        I don't think computer crimes is the right thing to go after him for. The machines are there for you to use and they don't have any conditions of use that you agree to. Taking pictures of people for a (seemingly) commercial endeavor without their permission should be the charge.

        Installation of software to secretly broadcast webcam or surveillance images to your blog is not a legitimate in-store demo. Lying to the store manager or security guard about the changes you will be making to their systems is unmistakably fraud and trespass.

  • Probably they didn't want to ask him about this particular project, but maybe he setup something similar before? Maybe he's got some other interesting pictures of people together with location and timestamp. Bonus point for someone else's in the surroundings (or sharing the computer).

    Or not, but well, they want to make sure :-)
  • Wait a second (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hansraj (458504) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @08:01AM (#36703586)

    So he had no idea when he came up with this project that he might get in trouble with the law even though he _thinks_ he is on the right side of the law? Either this guy is trying to make a point by getting in the grey area (FTFA, he is a consultant for EFF), or a moron. In either way, he is going to need a lot of luck.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Well, that's the land of the free and the brave for you. I stay in my socialist European hellhole, thank you very much.
      • Wait, what? Some guy breaks law, enforcement goes after him. Farewell freedom?

        Can you explain that bit for me?

    • by Alef (605149)

      (FTFA, he is a consultant for EFF)

      No, TFA says he is consulting with EFF, not that he is a consultant for EFF. He is asking them for legal advice.

    • by jpapon (1877296)
      The only thing here that is possibly illegal is that he installed software when he wasn't explicitly authorized to... Of course, he wasn't explicitly prohibited from installing software either, and since the computers are there for public use with no conditions on how they can be used, I don't really see how Apple has any case against him.
  • Great exposure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stormguard2099 (1177733) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @08:01AM (#36703588)

    Geez, you can't really ask for any better PR than having your project mentioned on national news. As long as he stays out of jail (go EFF!) then he'll come out on top in the end.

  • A creative coding suite... I hope the SS doesn't impede my C++ art.

  • I like how every shot he posted has some sort of stereotypical nature about it. It's like characters in a movie or something. I also find it interesting how many people look angry?

  • * Public place
    * Got permission
    * Glorified art project

    Seriously, what a waste of tax money.
    • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @08:10AM (#36703618) Homepage Journal

      * Got permission

      It sounds like a security guard gave him permission to take a few shots in the store, not to install webcam software on their laptops.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Also an apple store is not a public place, it's private property that's open to the public which is MUCH different than say a park.

        • No, every Apple store is a public conveyance. They may be privately owned, but the mere fact they are a store makes them a public place.

          • Errm, I mean a public place...conveyance refers to transportation..not sure there's much of that going on in Apple stores.

          • by cob666 (656740)
            A store is not a 'public place'. It's is privately owned. You can't be asked to leave a public park but you can be asked to leave a store. You can take pictures in a public place but you need permission to take pictures of the inside of a store (the exception being you take pictures of the inside of a store FROM a public place.)
            • This is not an issue of photography in a public place. The guy is in hot water for computer hacking or some nonsense. He is legally protected in that you can take pictures of people in stores without their consent as long as they are afforded "reasonable privacy" (you aren't photographing them in the bathroom or locker room).

              A store, while privately owned, is considered public space. You can take pictures of people inside a store unless the STORE clearly posts limitations against it. Apple doesn't do this

            • by naasking (94116)

              You can't be asked to leave a public park

              Sure you can, by the police.

          • by canajin56 (660655)

            No. Anything that isn't government property is private property. In a public space you are free to do "things deemed reasonable" such as "reasonable speech". In private property that is open to the public, such as a store or a mall, you are not free. The freedom you have is "you may enter without permission" but you have no freedom with regards to anything else. For example, an Apple Store can forbid political speech, they can forbid soliciting, they can forbid skateboards and rollerskates, they can e

            • Yeah all that except you are wrong...at least in California.

              In 1979, the California Supreme Court [107 Cal.App.4th 109] concluded that “a privately owned shopping center that attracts large numbers of people to congregate in order to shop and take advantage of other amenities offered by the shopping center is the functional equivalent of the traditional town center, which historically is a public forum where persons can exercise the right to free speech. (Robins v. Pruneyard Shopping Center (1979) 23

        • People don't have a reasonable right to privacy when they are in a public place like the apple store or the mall etc. If they didn't want to be photographed they should have stayed home. Welcome to surveilance nation where there's a camera around every corner.
  • by Teun (17872) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @08:14AM (#36703632) Homepage
    It seems to me the legal concept of proportionality is out of the window even before a court has looked at it.

    When the Apple store is so upset about someone installing a reasonably innocent piece of software on one of their publicly available computers that they need the Secret Service to handle it I get serious doubts about both the Secret Service's and Apple's sound judgement.

    • by Goaway (82658)

      Secretly taking pictures of people without their concent is "relatively innocent" now?

      • It has always been "overtly innocent" to take pictures of people in public.

        IAAP (I am a photographer).

      • by jpapon (1877296)
        In a public place, yes, it is innocent. The issue isn't whether it was a crime to take the pictures (it isn't), it is whether it was a crime to install software on the Apple Store's computers. That's why he was taken in by the Secret service, he's being charged with violating 18 USC section 1030 "The computer fraud and abuse act".
  • EFF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lyinhart (1352173) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @08:25AM (#36703668)
    So he's consulting the EFF (not working as a consultant for them like someone else though). I'd be very disappointed at the EFF if they side with this guy. He installed software that most of the passerbys didn't know about. The software was used to take pictures of them, most of whom did not give their explicit permission. And he published the pictures on an Internet site for the whole world to see. Given how the EFF takes the bigs to task for their written license agreements and violations of privacy, taking this guy's side would make no sense.
    • by scorp1us (235526)

      Well places like shopping malls, though they are privately owned, are deemed pseudo public spaces, because your presence is obvious. He didn't do anything really. Now doing it in a private residence however, this would be illegal. But it was an open-to-the-public store. Extremely creepy yes, but not illegal.

    • There's more than one question here, though.

      Was what he did wrong? (I'd say so.) Was it illegal? (Could be - ask a lawyer.) What shade of illegal was it (tort, misdemeanor, felony, whatever) if it was? Was the Secret Service raid justified? What should have been done?

      There's this current of Slashdot thought that says that, if you're doing something wrong, measures taken against you because of it are right. That attitude really isn't compatible with the rule of law, and doesn't work well with a fr

  • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @08:29AM (#36703688)
    How dare he? That's Steve's job. Blessed be the name of the Steve.
  • Idiot artist (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lillebo (1561251) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @08:31AM (#36703700)
    Lol, just watched the video montage he did of the stunt. Some minutes into the video, after showing a couple of hundred faces, he ponders "Would people look different if I showed them how the computer sees them?" - or in other words "Would people react differently if I showed them I was taking pictures of them?"

    As predicted - most did. Next he says "Most just hit escape".

    Couldn't help but laugh at his naivety. Of course people would hit escape - they don't want their picture taken you twat!
  • It sounds like he asked some rent-a-cop if he could take people's pictures, and then gained access to computers in the Apple Stores to take these pictures without the permission of someone who actually had authority to grant that permission. The article is pretty scant on details, though, and only really tells things from his side, so it's hard to tell what really happened at this point.

    • by Rockoon (1252108)
      The devices on display are set up explicitly so that the public will have access to (and in fact are encouraged to explore) their features, which includes the webcam on them.

      This to me sounds like implicit permission to use the cameras, as well as implicit permission to install software. Any legal line this man may have crossed is beyond the act of simply using the camera, or installing software. He had implicit permission to do those two things.
      • by sg3000 (87992)

        The devices on display are set up explicitly so that the public will have access to (and in fact are encouraged to explore) their features, which includes the webcam on them.

        This to me sounds like implicit permission to use the cameras, as well as implicit permission to install software. Any legal line this man may have crossed is beyond the act of simply using the camera, or installing software. He had implicit permission to do those two things.

        I doubt that. You can use the webcam on them to take photos (using Photo booth, etc.), but to suggest that a customer is implicitly allowed to install software that surreptitiously photographs other customers and then displays them in public is ridiculous. If what you suggest were the case, then that would mean Apple is implicitly allowing people to install keyloggers or similar malware. Just because Apple didn't post a sign saying, "don't install surveillance software, malware, worms, viruses, trojan hors

    • by sg3000 (87992) <sg_public@[ ].com ['mac' in gap]> on Saturday July 09, 2011 @09:55AM (#36704056)

      It sounds like he asked some rent-a-cop if he could take people's pictures, and then gained access to computers in the Apple Stores to take these pictures without the permission of someone who actually had authority to grant that permission. The article is pretty scant on details, though, and only really tells things from his side, so it's hard to tell what really happened at this point.

      That's probably what he did, and I think he's trying to just cover his tracks. I think he was hoping for a "ask for forgiveness rather than for permission" situation.

      He should have gone to the Apple Store manager, told them explicitly what he wants to do: "I'm going to install software on all the Macs in this store, which will randomly take photos of your customers and upload the photos to my website, which I'll then display publicly for my art project." Then when they said, "no," go find something else to do with his time.

  • by bledri (1283728) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @09:04AM (#36703840)

    The potential penalty is absurd, but if you: Install software without permission on 100 machines at two stores that each take and upload a picture to your personal server every minute. Return every day, for several days, doing so since apple wipes the machines every day. Remotely trigger the software to show a slide show of your making (calling doing so "arranging an exhibition"), what the hell would you expect? No charges have been made yet, I hope he does not do jail time, but he deserves a smack upside the head.

    Ideally Apple should lock down the DVD drives and USB ports at the stores, requiring an admin to mount a drive, though I have no clue how to do that.

    • Ideally Apple should lock down the DVD drives and USB ports at the stores, requiring an admin to mount a drive, though I have no clue how to do that.

      The goal is to sell hardware, not lock it down. Unless you are trying to sell a computer to a guy wearing a tin-foil hat, why would you want to lock it down to potential buyers?

      Besides, you can muck with Macs at the Apple store using the free wireless much easier.

  • by nibbles2004 (761552) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @10:10AM (#36704136) Homepage

    1.He installed unauthorized software on a computer not belonging to him, a security guard would not have the authority to give this person permission to do this, the Security guard i bet technically doesn't work for Apple, but will work for a security firm that has a contract with the store.

    2.Yes in apple stores you can use the camera, but would you think it's ok for Apple to store those pictures and upload them to a public website, no i doubt you would

    3.Technically he is not in a public space, he is in a apple store who can prohibit people from taking pictures, a lot of shops will not allow you to take pictures in there store.

    4. It cannot be assumed people are aware there pictures are being taken, not everyone is computer literate and would notice things such as the camera light.

    5.There is nothing against the law of taking pictures of people on a beach for instance and posting them on the web, one it's a public area, and also would tend to be more obvious carrying around a camera taking snaps.

    6.there is very little difference legally had he set up a laptop in changing room and done the same thing

  • 1984 Irony (Score:4, Interesting)

    by clyde_cadiddlehopper (1052112) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @11:25AM (#36704646)

    In 1948, George Orwell arrived on the cultural scene with his novel 1984. In it, citizens are watched at every minute and suspicious activity results in search and seizure by secret police.

    In 1984, Apple computer arrived on the cultural scene with their 1984 television ad. In it, the Macintosh computer is introduced as a means to individual expression and freedom from oppression.

    In 2011, Kyle McDonald arrived on the cultural scene with his People Staring at Computers art project. In it, he demonstrates the use of Apple computers to observe citizens every minute. Apple's complaint results in search and seizure by Secret Service.

    The parallels go on and on ... the US is a country in a continuous state of war, school was caught using Apple computer technology to accuse a student observed eating pill-shaped candy in his home of drug use, there are certainly parallels between Bradley Manning's and Winston Smith's incarcerations, state secrets are sacrosanct and facts are routinely rewritten. Happy 1984.

  • by 7-Vodka (195504) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @04:14PM (#36706980) Journal

    The way I see it he did two things and both of them are perfectly legal:

    1. Use computers that were made available for him to use by the apple stores
    2. take pictures of people in public places

    Taking pictures of people in public places is legal many times over, it's not even worth discussing.
    Using the computers that were put there for public use, is completely legal as well. He did not sign any contract saying what he would or would not do on them, there was no agreement signed that he would not install software on them. They're just offered up for public usage and installing software is such usage.

    I don't see anything legally, ethically or morally wrong with what he did. In fact, I hope he sues the bejeezus out of the thugs who broke into his house and stole his equipment.

"Pull the wool over your own eyes!" -- J.R. "Bob" Dobbs

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