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When Art, Apple and the Secret Service Collide 358

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-feel-safer-already dept.
theodp writes "Last July, Slashdot reported on Kyle McDonald, the artist who had the Secret Service raid his home at the behest of Apple, who was miffed with Kyle's surreptitious capture of people's expressions as they stared at computers in Apple Stores. A year later, Wired is running McDonald's first-person account of the preparation for and fallout from his People Staring at Computers project. 'I really wasn't expecting the Secret Service,' McDonald begins. 'Maybe an email, or a phone call from Apple. Instead, my first indication that something was "wrong" was a real-life visit from the organization best known for protecting the President of the United States of America.'"
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When Art, Apple and the Secret Service Collide

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  • by Flector (1702640) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @11:50AM (#40656039)
    ...amongst their weapons are fear, surprise, and an almost fanatical devotion to the pope.
    • by iamgnat (1015755)

      Oh god! They didn't put him in the comfy chair did they?!?!?! The poor soul..

  • He was surprised?! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EGSonikku (519478) <petersen.mobileNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday July 15, 2012 @11:53AM (#40656073)

    He can call it art, most human beings would call it creepy as hell, and last I checked you aren't supposed to be installing hidden spy equipment on Apple's display units. And what if Apple had sold any of these display units? Then you'd have hidden spy equipment inside people's homes, snapping photos and emailing this guy. Also I doubt he programmed in the stores hours, so you could have them snapping photos of employees before and after business was open when they do have an expectation of privacy.

    So yeah, if you are doing mass installs of spy software, you can expect a knock on your door.

    • I would say that everyone has - by default - a reasonable expectation of privacy whenever nobody else is around. Sure, if you are in a park, you can't do certain things that you could in the privacy of your home even if you don't see anyone, because you might not just have noticed someone and so on. However, in a half-public place, such as a store with no customers inside, you should be able to call your family/doctor/etc. or whatever without having to wonder whether someone is monitoring you in secret. (Yo

      • I expect a lot of those half-public places to have some sort of surveillance these days, such as a camera. Sure, there's plenty of places you'd reasonably expect there to be no electronic surveillance, such as the middle of the woods, but almost anywhere outside of nature you can reasonably expect to be recorded even if no one else is around.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 15, 2012 @12:51PM (#40656427)

        You would be completely wrong. You have an expectation that there are video cameras all throughout the store for security reasons. They will at least capture video, they might even capture audio. You have no expectation of privacy in a place open to the public.

    • by MacDork (560499)

      He can call it art, most human beings would call it creepy as hell, and last I checked you aren't supposed to be installing hidden spy equipment on Apple's display units.

      He was just doing it as a security measure. [slashdot.org] That's all.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by geekmux (1040042)

      He can call it art, most human beings would call it creepy as hell, and last I checked you aren't supposed to be installing hidden spy equipment on Apple's display units...

      Yeah, you're right. It's so much less creepy when Google drives down every single road in existence in custom-built vans, capturing every damn thing in a 360-degree view to build a feature in maps that we never asked for in the first place.

      • by artor3 (1344997)

        Two wrongs don't make a right. As I recall, Google did get in trouble for that in various countries, and has since started obscuring some images.

      • You mean the clearly-marked, fairly highly visible van that's driving through a public area, right? The one that has alghorythms that try to blur out people's faces so that they DON'T show up on street view?

        Oh yes, that's exactly the same as somebody installing surveillance software on somebody else's property, eavesdropping on their customers, and using said photos in their entirety without permission.

        When I saw the google van go by, I waved. If somebody had installed software without permission on my comp

    • by Gordonjcp (186804)

      And what if Apple had sold any of these display units? Then you'd have hidden spy equipment inside people's homes, snapping photos and emailing this guy.

      I suppose the lesson there is that if you buy an ex-demo laptop - or anything else with user-modifiable software - then flatten it and reinstall as soon as you get it home.

      And do that with your clothes on.

  • Moron (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 15, 2012 @12:01PM (#40656135)

    Do you really need a law to know that this is wrong?
    Just because something might be legal, doesn't mean it is right.
    Change out "small Mom & Pop store" for "Apple store" and see how you feel about this guy's art project.
    I don't require a law to say please and thank you, or to know that a business is a business, not a playground for your art project.

    • by LourensV (856614)

      I'll play devil's advocate for a bit, since most comments so far seem to boil down to "everyone involved is an idiot", "this is not art" and/or "privacy, privacy, privacy!". I do think there is some room for the opposite point of view. From reading the article (I know, I know), it seems to me that he's been thinking about privacy, the lack thereof in our modern society, and its implications, for quite a while. Moreover, he's put his money where his mouth is and experimented on himself, and writes about his

      • Many people are crying overreaction to an art project but most people seem to forget that we don't have omnipotence. After the fact it was discovered to be an art project. When Apple discovered that someone had secretly installed software onto their computers, they couldn't have known that. The Secret Service investigating the intrusion couldn't have known ahead of time it was an art project.
  • but you are kind of a dick if you transgress against people by taking unauthorized pictures of them with equipment that isn't yours and then using the pictures without their permission

    so i'm not very sympathetic to the stalkerific "artist"

    but i'm sure we'll see a lot of comments here about the violations of the federal government in this situation, completely ignoring the violations committed by this douchebag

    • by Sarten-X (1102295)

      As an avid fan of "people doing what's right", I find I can't really support anybody in this case.

      The artist (yeah, I'll grant him the liberal use of the term, and give him the freedom to declare his work as art) should have considered the effect of his work on others... not just the final product, but the production. He could have worked with the store to come to a mutually-acceptable agreement, he could have staged the pictures with actual models making the expressions seen in the surreptitious photos, or

      • you're right, every actor in this situation is basically a douchebag apocalypse: everyone violating everyone else

      • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @01:24PM (#40656645)

        Apple, once offended, could have sent a letter, or a lawyer, a C&D notice, or maybe just shoot for a restraining order against the artist ever entering their stores again.

        So Apple is to investigate why secret software was installed on their computers? Or would they do as any other company and call the authorities and let them deal with it. After the fact, we know he was just an artist but Apple (and more importantly the Secrete Service) couldn't have known that. Why was the Secret Service involved? I suppose this fell under their jurisdiction and not the FBI.

        To draw in the federal government to raid the guy's house? That's pretty extreme. It's so extreme that I wonder if there's more to this story than we're being told. I mean, it makes sense in a jumping-to-conclusions sort of way. The guy installed his own application onto every computer in a store, without management approval. That's malicious activity, and could be construed as a target malware attack.

        You make it sound like Apple championed a raid. I'm pretty sure that the government decided on that course of action without Apple's opinion. Apple reported the issue and the Secret Service took it from there. Also remember at the time, other than the artist, no one at the Secret Service or Apple could be sure of the intent of this malware.

        Apple's supposed to be a computer company, though. would it have really been so hard to look at the program and see what it did? Maybe send the guy a final picture of the manager holding a note reading "We're uninstalling your program; don't ever set foot in here again", and be done with it? They instead chose to go straight to the nuclear option.

        Again Apple is not a computer crimes investigative company. There are specialized companies and agencies for that. And again, they informed the authorities who took it from there. Apple is not responsible for the actions of the authorities.

        • by Sarten-X (1102295)

          I'd expect Apple to have been fully involved in the case. It would have to have been one of their staff who noticed the guy installing application (or the app itself), one of their legal representatives who passed it to the Secret Service, and once the Secret Service's investigation showed who it was and (roughly) what was going on, they probably got a call asking "Is this one of your guys?" to make sure the Secret Service wasn't about to raid the home of a hired security consultant or the like.

          Somewhere al

          • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @01:58PM (#40656867)

            I'd expect Apple to have been fully involved in the case. It would have to have been one of their staff who noticed the guy installing application (or the app itself), one of their legal representatives who passed it to the Secret Service, and once the Secret Service's investigation showed who it was and (roughly) what was going on, they probably got a call asking "Is this one of your guys?" to make sure the Secret Service wasn't about to raid the home of a hired security consultant or the like.

            So you are saying Apple other than handing off the information (and the computers) to the authorities has to be involved with every step? When you report a crime to the police, are you involved with every step of their investigation? The police and Secret Service probably want to do the investigation on their own. The last time someone took something from my car, I didn't tag along with the detective or ask the tech guys if they processed the fingerprints.

            Somewhere along the line, an Apple representative made the decision to screw up this guy's life for a while. That's bad enough to disgust me.

            What kind of nonsense is this? They reported a computer to the authorities. The authorities took it from there. This artist who broke laws has no consequences to his own actions? Just above you said that Apple should have been more involved but then you blame them for actions that they didn't take even though they were not more involved. If someone breaks into my house and steals things; I report it to the police. The police put the thief into jail where he gets stabbed to death, you are saying that I screwed this guy's life?

            • by Sarten-X (1102295)

              So you are saying Apple other than handing off the information (and the computers) to the authorities has to be involved with every step?

              No, but at some point they would have been consulted to see if they wanted to proceed.

              When you report a crime to the police, are you involved with every step of their investigation? The police and Secret Service probably want to do the investigation on their own. The last time someone took something from my car, I didn't tag along with the detective or ask the tech guys if they processed the fingerprints.

              If they had ever caught someone, you'd be asked if you wanted to press charges. If they had suspects, there's a good chance you'd be shown a set of pictures and be asked if you recognize anyone.

              This artist who broke laws has no consequences to his own actions?

              The artist should face consequences, but of the "mild discomfort and inconvenience" variety that the Apple stores faced when they couldn't explain what the display computers had just done.

              Just above you said that Apple should have been more involved but then you blame them for actions that they didn't take even though they were not more involved.

              In TFA, the artist mentions that he had pict

  • by aristotle-dude (626586) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @12:34PM (#40656337)

    He basically installed malware/spyware onto Apple store computer and he calls that "art". Are botnets just another form of "expression"? Give me a break. There was not permission from the store owners and no informed consent from the subjects. The guy is creepy as hell.

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @12:38PM (#40656357) Homepage Journal
    Oh... hi guys. The whorehouse is just down the street.

    They'll taze you, but it'll have been worth it.

  • You don't own that physical object, therefore not yours to play with.

  • Used only his equipment, and set it up to take photos in the women's bathroom.

  • by honestmonkey (819408) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @02:06PM (#40656917) Journal
    So imagine the exact same art project, only someone at Apple had come up with it and decided to do it. The only difference would be that instead of some random artist installing software on computers in the store (the only part of this that might conceivably be a slight bit hinky), Apple employees install the same software. They don't have to change anything in their stores, or ask permission (there are already security cameras in the store). They have an artist go through and make a show in the same manner this fellow did. What then? Is it "Cool idea, Apple" or "Ah, ah! Privacy violation! Just because I'm in your store!"

    Alternately, the guy could have gone through a bit more effort and used a telephoto lens to get essentially the same photos through the window, or even wandered around inside the store with a camera; we already know that that's legal.

    So is the only thing that's wrong is that he used the computer's camera's? Didn't warn people? Is Apple out any money due to this? If they'd contacted the guy and said "Cool, but ask us next time", we wouldn't even be reading about this. What if it had happened in a Best Buy instead - better or worse than this?
    • So is the only thing that's wrong is that he used the computer's camera's?

      Yes. Without Apple's permission.

      Didn't warn people?

      No he did not. And he did not get their permission. Read up on public photography vs private photography.

      Is Apple out any money due to this?

      That is irrelevant.

      If they'd contacted the guy and said "Cool, but ask us next time", we wouldn't even be reading about this.

      Someone unknowingly installs software on your computer. That appears to spy on people and uploads to an unknown account outside their servers. Do you contact the person or do you contact the authorities? Apple chose to contact the authorities. There may be bigger legal questions involved.

      What if it had happened in a Best Buy instead - better or worse than this?

      I suspect the same exact thing would have happened.

  • One of the purpose of art is to challenge any and all social norms.

    His project was interesting and did not really violate privacy because none is expected in an Apple store. As far as we know, Apple keylogs everything people do on their computer in their store. Yet one sees people do all sort of private things on these computers: write CVs, log onto FB, read mail, and so on.

    His project draws attention to the fact that Apple likely does record things about their users, and it does it in a fun way that is fra

    • His project was interesting and did not really violate privacy because none is expected in an Apple store. As far as we know, Apple keylogs everything people do on their computer in their store. Yet one sees people do all sort of private things on these computers: write CVs, log onto FB, read mail, and so on.

      Installing software onto Apple's computers without their permission violates no laws for you? And do you know what Apple does or are you making wild accusations without proof?

      His project draws attention to the fact that Apple likely does record things about their users, and it does it in a fun way that is frankly not very intrusive. This is probably why Apple didn't like it.

      You can postulate whatever reason you want for Apple not liking it., but if I installed the same software on your computer, it wouldn't really what particular reason you didn't like it, would it?

  • The guy gets his home raided by SS-goons, sicced on him by Apple, and his first inclination is: Yay, let's go buy another Apple product!

  • From the article, regarding his 2009 "keytweeter" project.

    I learned that I was more honest, with myself and with others, when I knew everyone could see what I was saying.

    No, that's not being more honest.
    That's being more paranoid and closing off what you really want to say.
    Artists like to put a positive, deep-thought spin on their works. At least he didn't throw in 50 cent words in describing his projects.

  • by westlake (615356) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @03:09PM (#40657281)
    There are three things you need to know about:

    Electronic Crime Task Forces

    On October 26, 2001, President Bush signed into law H.R. 3162, the USA PATRIOT Act. The U.S. Secret Service was mandated by this Act to establish a nationwide network of Electronic Crimes Task Forces (ECTFs). The concept of the ECTF network is to bring together not only federal, state and local law enforcement, but also prosecutors, private industry and academia. The common purpose is the prevention, detection, mitigation and aggressive investigation of attacks on the nation's financial and critical infrastructures.

    The Secret Service's ECTF and Electronic Crimes Working Group initiatives prioritize investigative cases that involve electronic crimes. These initiatives provide necessary support and resources to field investigations that meet any one of the following criteria:

    Significant economic or community impact
    Participation of organized criminal groups involving multiple districts or transnational organizations
    Use of schemes involving new technology

    Electronic Crimes Task Forces and Working Groups [secretservice.gov]

    Criminal Investigations

    Identity Crimes - Identity crimes are defined as the misuse of personal or financial identifiers in order to gain something of value and/or facilitate other criminal activity. The Secret Service is the primary federal agency tasked with investigating identity theft/fraud and its related activities under Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028. Identity crimes are some of the fastest growing and most serious economic crimes in the United States for both financial institutions and persons whose identifying information has been illegally used. The Secret Service records criminal complaints, assists victims in contacting other relevant investigative and consumer protection agencies and works with other federal, state and local law enforcement and reporting agencies to identify perpetrators.

    Identity crimes investigated by the Secret Service include, but are not limited to, the following:

    Credit Card/Access Device Fraud (Skimming)
    Check Fraud
    Bank Fraud
    False Identification Fraud
    Passport/Visa Fraud
    Identity Theft

    Computer Fraud - Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1030, authorizes the Secret Service to investigate computer crimes. Violations enforced under this statute include unauthorized access to protected computers, theft of data such as personal identification used to commit identity theft, denial of service attacks used for extortion or disruption of e-commerce and malware (malicious software) distribution to include viruses intended for financial gain.

    Criminal Investigations [secretservice.gov]

    The "spy camera" project that exposes kids can cast you into very deep water.

    Forensic Services

    As part of the 1994 Crime Bill, Congress mandated the U.S. Secret Service to provide forensic/technical assistance in matters involving missing and exploited children. On April 30, 2003, President George W. Bush signed the PROTECT Act of 2003, known as the "Amber Alert Bill," which gave full authorization to the U.S. Secret Service in this area.

    Forensic Services [secretservice.gov]

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