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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 Anonymous Crobar (1143477) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @12:33PM (#40656325)

    That's it. From this point forward when I hear someone waxing beautifically about hwo "great" Apple is, I will be linking to this story. And others. To show them how tyrannical the company has truly become.

    Ok, I'm with you on the privacy thing. You know Apple has security cameras at their stores, so there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. But take a minute and think about what this guy did - he wrote literal spyware. Specifically, he wrote a program, secretly installed it on a computer he didn't own and used that program to relay information back to him. If he did that at my office, on my equipment (ok, the company equipment) I'd lose my mind. I'd call the the cops, FBI, and yeah, sure, the secret service.

    Wired, you suck. I think this guy did some creepy, messed up stuff and you gave him a free pass because it was in the name of "art" and you can sell magazines by dumping on [Apple/HP/Microsoft]. Let's pick his brain for a moment:

    The next week, I got some pings from Apple in Cupertino. I looked through the logs and tried to reconstruct what was happening. I saw a few pings from one computer, a few from another. Sometimes multiple copies of the app were running. I even had a vague sense of when they took their lunch break.

    What if this guy wasn't an artist? What if worked for a competitor who was trying to get a headcount at a certain store? Would that change the story? I love art as much as the next man, and sure, it's an interesting idea, but the but the guy has earned what he's received.

  • 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 UnknowingFool (672806) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @12:56PM (#40656461)

    According to New York and most state laws, a private venue that has been opened to the general citizenry is no longer a private area. It is defined as a "public facility" and therefore has to abide by the state's non-discrimination, non-smoking, and other laws.

    What? A store is private unless it is owned by government facility. Then it may be considered public. As for discrimination, by the Commerce Clause, all businesses selling to the public must abide by appropriate laws. Selling to the public does not make a private store public. That's why many stores can throw you out for having no shirt or shoes. They can't throw you out because you are not Caucasian.

    Regardless, you missed the point:

    • The artist installed software without the computer owner's permission (Apple).
    • The software took pictures of people secretly.
    • The artist did not have the people's permission.

    Tell me which one of the above three acts is okay with you.

    Many stores that have CC recording normally have disclaimers telling you that you are being recorded. That was not this case.

  • by Bing Tsher E (943915) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @01:16PM (#40656581) Journal

    The Young Steve Jobs went on a pilgrimage to India in his 20's. People act like they are being ironic when they refer to the cultlike nature of the Apple organization. Jobs knew exactly what he was doing.

    The way Apple crassly and commercially manipulate this stuff, it's surprising more spiritually minded people don't call out Apple for it. Then again, Jobs studied under Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi [the-wanderling.com] who was the same huckster cult operator who hooked in on the Beatles.

    Jobs set up Apple to be sort of a Moonie outfit. Quite literally cultilike.

  • by Bing Tsher E (943915) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @01:23PM (#40656631) Journal

    He's creepy as hell, but the fact that Apple chose to trump him with their own creepy behavior isn't comforting. There were many other means at their disposal to deal with the issue, that they chose to call up a Secret Police organization is sorta telling.

  • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @01:27PM (#40656661) Homepage

    ...so it's like any other company? For a while I worked at a large corporation covering many roles, and I noticed the same air of secrecy, but upon asking, I was given reasons for it.

    All training is confidential, because certain statements are easier to convey in an informal setting, but the public would get agitated by them. One training video I watched was incredibly sexist. All the food service jobs were depicted by women, and the operations were handled by men. The video was made in 1970, so it's pretty easy, in an internal setting, to just not care. Another training session included the statement of "don't do X, because it is offensive to group Y". Someone could take offense that group Y was being singled out as being troublesome. Rather than scour every piece of training material, and remake it whenever yet another term is deemed offensive, the training is just declared confidential, and (good) managers start each training session with the phrase "This stuff is really old and a little politically incorrect. Sorry about that."

    During the shadowing experience, you're still considered as being in training. You don't know everything, and even if you do know something, there's a good chance you'll screw up the protocol the company wants you to follow. Maybe there's an easy fix for a broken Apple product, but it only works for certain models. A helpful eager newbie might tell the customer the fix, which could void their warranty and make things worse, while an experienced staff member knows to just escalate such issues to someone who can find the appropriate solution for the model.

    Once your sales training is complete, you're a salesman. You're in the sales department, not PR. You might hear rumors of a product the company doesn't want to announce yet, so you're not allowed to talk about it. If someone has a major injury on your sales floor, you aren't allowed to speak to the press about it, because you aren't likely to say just the right thing to align with the company image, and you probably don't have all the facts of the situation, anyway.

    The first rule of being a corporate minion is that you do not talk about being a corporate minion. You assume you aren't the all-seeing all-knowing god of the world, and you say only what the manager tells you to say, which has been decided by the various committees that are higher up than you are, who are working with a big-picture view of what the company as a whole wants to say to the world.

  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @02:12PM (#40656945)

    He asked the Apple employee if he could film so filing was clearly OK. That was all the permission he needed. Besides that he even states in the piece that lots of people film/take pictures in the Apple store.

    Asking to take pictures inside a store is not the same as asking an Apple employee to install secret software to take pictures of customers.

    Apple clearly made no effort to claim copyright to any extent that would prohibit the taking of picture/video. If they had they should have made employees aware and posted signs.

    This is not about copyright. This was about malware and invasion of privacy.

    He didn't exceed his authorization as the system was clearly on display for use. There were no passwords, the system had no lock downs which he exceeded, and he never disabled any piece of software such as the “freezer” program.

    No where was there permission to install. My neighbor leaves his garage door open sometimes. That doesn't mean I can borrow his tools without asking him first.

    There also was no reasonable expectation of privacy. This was a public place even though it was private owned. Any place which the public generally has access to is a public place. This includes movie theaters, theme parks, and other locations which one can be banned from. A home is not a public place because the general public is not welcomed. A private club might not be a public place because it is exclusive to the members of said club.

    And where are the rights of owners of the private place? You can take a picture inside a movie theater. I think they would mind it if you set up a web cam without their permission.

    The right to publicity generally would not apply here either. These pictures were of the general public and there was no intent to use (even in practice) any person picture publicly whom could claim such a right. Right of publicity applies to celebrities, actors, models, and so on. Not random people that nobody could name. If you brought a lawsuit the accuser would win exactly $0.

    No where was this mentioned about right to publicity. This was about spying and the rights of Apple and individuals.

    This is coming from a privacy advocate. I don't think there should be cameras everywhere (government or private). However this person (artist or not) was of no threat to any persons privacy. What is a threat to your privacy is all the store cameras, government cameras, and so forth which are all over the place. Your cellular phone is a privacy threat, your web browsing is a privacy threat, your credit/debit cards are a privacy threat, your drivers license is a privacy threat, your license plate is a privacy threat, your social security number is a privacy threat. This one little project is not a privacy threat.

    We do not have omnipotence or precognition. After the fact, this individual poses little risk. When Apple discovered the spyware, they could not have known what the intent was or who did it. Was this targeting the public or a person specifically? The artist also could have said it was for an art project but spies don't generally tell the truth about what they are doing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 15, 2012 @02:43PM (#40657101)

    In his defense, he did mention that he asked an Apple employee for permission, which was granted.

    Before you say the employee might have overstepped his level of authority and decision-making, that's not the guy's problem, that's between Apple and their employee.

    I do thing it was wrong to take pictures of people without their consent. The USA really need laws that protect people's privacy better ,especially when it comes to photography. But nothing the guy did seems illegal.

  • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @04:53PM (#40658049)
    That would be clever. Maharsi was kind of the real thing, and he died in 1950, which would make it rather ingenious of Jobs to have studied under him. The "Maharishi Mahesh Yogi" associated with the Beatles was someone who cottoned on to how a Westernised version of Hinduism could be profitably marketed, and did so. Very profitably. Lennon saw right through him (and I have little time for Lennon). Jobs...well look it up. The similarity between Apple Stores and the Maharishi's TM centres is interesting to a part time student of sociology of religion.
  • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @05:25PM (#40658247)

    That really sounds like some religious cult.

    Sounds like every NDA ever to me.

Any sufficiently advanced bug is indistinguishable from a feature. -- Rich Kulawiec

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