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Apple Store Artist Raided By Secret Service 376

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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  • Some dumbass (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 09, 2011 @07:56AM (#36703562)
    Installed a program on someone's else computer and now he's saying there's nothing wrong with this?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 09, 2011 @07:59AM (#36703582)

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • by CFBMoo1 ( 157453 ) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @08:06AM (#36703602) Homepage
    * Public place
    * Got permission
    * Glorified art project

    Seriously, what a waste of tax money.
  • Re:Wait a second (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mindcontrolled ( 1388007 ) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @08:09AM (#36703614)
    Well, that's the land of the free and the brave for you. I stay in my socialist European hellhole, thank you very much.
  • 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.

  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 09, 2011 @08:43AM (#36703744)

    There's a slight difference between installing 'spy' software on the school's computers that are being handed over for use by students and installing it on someone else's computers without their real knowledge. From TFA and others, he obtained permission to take some photos: not do a little impromtu- and really questionable from a legal view- IT work undercover.

    The first is, from a property standpoint, legal. The school was installing software on computeres it owned. The second is not. The guy was installing software on somone else's computers without permission. Neither are ethical actions, with both being questionable from a privacy viewpoint, but the latter is the one that's gonna get the more 'thorough' response from law enforcement.

  • 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.

  • 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...
  • 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 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

  • So... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by PrimeNumber ( 136578 ) <> on Saturday July 09, 2011 @10:23AM (#36704192) Homepage

    I take it the only reason the fucking Secret Service is going after him is because he isn't a corporation or the government.
    The groups the Secret Service don't go after:
    1) Sony Corporation (rootkits caused actual *harm* to PCs)
    2) School systems that install "uncle pervy" software on underage students computers.
    3) Facebook installing (implementing) facial recognition capabilities *without* the consent of user.

    We know a) He had permission. b) Isn't wealthy. It makes great headlines and he has limited resources to fight back & hasn't paid off a legislator -- that is the difference. Fuck Obama -- I thought we were going to get real change - more of the same old shit.

  • by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @11:16AM (#36704564)

    More sensible: wipe and re-install them every night. Or every few hours even, depending on how heavily customers tinker with it and try to change settings. As an Apple store you'd likely want your display models to look like Steve Jobs wants them to look.

  • by Stupendoussteve ( 891822 ) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @01:30PM (#36705714)

    Uh... he installed hidden software that took pictures every minute and sent them to him, without the permission of the owner. Things like that tend to get you into trouble. Just ask this guy [].

Money can't buy love, but it improves your bargaining position. -- Christopher Marlowe