Boy howdy, I have seen some paranoid, pant-shitting hysterics over some news that the dot-Gov is demanding Apple and Google hand over a list of names of people who downloaded an app for a scope.

Most everyone who has written about this is wrong.

Sorry, but this is one of those times where I have to pull rank as a subject matter expert on this.

Exclusive: Feds Demand Apple And Google Hand Over Names Of 10,000+ Users Of A Gun Scope App

Own a rifle? Got a scope to go with it? The U.S. government might soon know who you are, where you live and how to reach you.

Calm your tits, that’s not a thing.

That’s because the government wants Apple and Google to hand over names, phone numbers and other identifying data of at least 10,000 users of a single gun scope app, Forbes has discovered. It’s an unprecedented move: Never before has a case been disclosed in which American investigators demanded personal data of users of a single app from Apple and Google. And never has an order been made public where the feds have asked the Silicon Valley giants for info on so many thousands of people in one go.

That may be true, I don’t know.

According to an application for a court order filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on September 5, investigators want information on users of Obsidian 4, a tool used to control rifle scopes made by night-vision specialist American Technologies Network Corp. The app allows gun owners to get a live stream, take video and calibrate their gun scope from an Android or iPhone device. According to the Google Play page for Obsidian 4, it has more than 10,000 downloads. Apple doesn’t provide download numbers, so it’s unclear how many iPhone owners could be swept up in this latest government data grab.

Forbes will get to this at the bottom paragraph number seven, below the fold or the first ad break in the article, and do a shit job of explaining it.

There are four letters you need to know to understand what is going on here.

I T A R.  ITAR, pronounced “eye-tar” is short for International Traffic in Arms Regulation.

This is some serious Federal law.  Serious like if you violate ITAR they will send you maximum-security get pounded in the ass Federal prison.  The fine for violating ITAR is a minimum of $500,000 per violation.

There is no latitude on ITAR.  No “I didn’t mean to violate it” or “I didn’t know I was violating it.”  If you get caught they will drop the hammer on you.

I know ITAR.  I live, eat, breathe, and sleep ITAR.  Every employee where I work as a defense contractor has to go through ITAR training every year.  We spend a full day with corporate counsel on it.  If an employee violates ITAR, not just does that employee get to go to prison, the whole company gets fucked.  Fucked as in the ATF yanks our license to manufacture.

So when I say “I know ITAR,” I know ITAR.  Just say “ITAR” in a city like Huntsville, where half of everyone with an engineering degree works for a defense contractor, and buttholes will pucker within earshot.

In  a nutshell, ITAR prohibits the export of ANYTHING related to arms or weapons manufacture without explicit permission from the Federal government.

Here is how serious they take this.  We cannot have a non-US citizen come into our facility without permission.  Having a foreign national visit us for a tour of the facility constitutes export.

There are lots of things that most people wouldn’t think are ITAR regulated but are.  Your copy of Flight Simulator is ITAR restricted, eecause it can be used to train combat pilots overseas.  Your toy drone is ITAR regulated because it contains some of the same software as a Predator or a Reaper and some Jihadi can weaponize it.

Even small things you wouldn’t consider to be ITAR are ITAR if they are used in weapons.  Are you a gun maker?  Do you want to buy some cheap grip screws or aluminum extrusions for pic-rail?  You better not send those drawings to a machine shop in China without approval because even something like screws are ITAR if they are for guns.

Have I impressed upon you the seriousness of ITAR?

So, back to the Forbes article.

The scopes we’re talking about here are ATN.  Gun people are probably familiar with them, they make advanced thermal and night vision scopes.  Some of their features are incredible: laser range finding, self zeroing, video recording, ballistic drop calculating, etc.

Not just are they very powerful scopes, but the technology could be hacked to do things like make gun systems or ballistic computers for tanks and artillery.

So take everything that you learned about ITAR and now understand that the app to drive this scope was downloaded by people all over the world.

That software was exported without permission from the Federal government.

In addition, the app works in conjunction with the scope, so the Government wants to know if there were people overseas who bought the scope which means the scope itself was exported without permission.

To put it bluntly, the Federal government wants to know if what amounts to a miniaturized targeting system from am M1 Abrams was shipped overseas without permission in violation of ITAR.

Dot-Gov is not trying to access this information to see if Freedom Eagle dot Facebook has an AR-15 so they can come take it away.

Dot-Gov is trying to access this information to make sure Ali’s Bodega didn’t ship a dozen night vision scopes to his cousin in Afghanistan in violation of ITAR.

If the court approves the demand, and Apple and Google decide to hand over the information, it could include data on thousands of people who have nothing to do with the crimes being investigated, privacy activists warned. Edin Omanovic, lead on Privacy International’s State Surveillance program, said it would set a dangerous precedent and scoop up “huge amounts of innocent people’s personal data.”

Yes, there are privacy concerns here, and that will need to be worked out by the courts.

Look, there are serious privacy concerns about the government asking for huge amounts of download data.  This is something the courts are going to have to work out, not just in this case but in many, many cases.

And no, I don’t have that much trust for The Fed dot Gov.

The point is, the sky is not falling.  What happened was an ITAR violation of extraordinary proportion – every download of that app to an overseas account is a violation – and the government is trying to mop it up.

Calm down, this isn’t step one in having a SWAT team kick in your door because your Google search history suggests you have glass on your rifle.

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By J. Kb

13 thoughts on “Everybody calm down, they are not coming for your guns with an app”
  1. “There is no latitude on ITAR. No “I didn’t mean to violate it” or “I didn’t know I was violating it.” If you get caught they will drop the hammer on you.”

    Unless you happen to be a domestic law enforcement agency smuggling guns to mexican drug cartels. At which point not only is no one willing to see if Mrs. Clinton’s State Department approved it, but they also pretend ITAR doesn’t exist at all.

    1. Oh my god did you see what that scope can do? It really is a mini Abrams sight. Day/night, compensates for wind, barometric pressure, ranges, magnifies from 3-14x, video records, moves the aiming point and for less than half of a trijicon! Thanks State Dept. I might not have seen this scope but for your “investigation.

  2. Thats why I “luv” facebook an such… all the morons read the headline and flip out batshit crazy. THIS makes sense(as usual). I guess i can take off my tin foil hat and ir proof undies…

  3. I don’t care WHAT law was violated or who got this stuff. Asking for the personal records of everyone who has ever used the product is a fishing expedition. This order is akin to demanding the emails and computer files of everyone in a certain neighborhood because someone may be in possession of child porn.

    The Bill of Rights doesn’t stop at the Second Amendment.
    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    1. Divemedic got here ahead of me with the 4th Amendment.

      It doesn’t matter what law is allegedly violated or by whom; the government isn’t supposed to be able to ask for this stuff without a name already attached to it.

      Allowed warrant under the 4th: Dear, Apple and Google; does Mr McThag possess or has he downloaded a copy of the app?

      Disallowed under the 4th: Give us a list of everyone who downloaded this app.

      Allowed under the 4th: Google (or Apple) we think you violated ITAR, produce your records of sales/distribution of this app.

      Disallowed under the 4th: Produce all of those records because we think Mr McThag is a foreign national who has a copy of your app.

      Never mind that ITAR itself is a massive violation of our Constitutional Rights, beginning, but not ending with no federal empowerment beyond taxes and tariffs to affect exports.

  4. When I was a programming hobbiest in the mid 1980s I used to get a catalog of various software development tools and recall ITAR applied to most of the compilers (or the good ones). Pretty sure the ITAR statement included a no export clause and an implied waiver that the feds can give you a high colonic anytime for any reason if you purchase the software.

    That in mind, the on-line vender may be in deep dutch if the provided to for foreign IP / e-mail accounts. This may be the primary reason for the customer list – the feds may already know that Apple and Google violated ITAR.

  5. Worried Uncle might be compiling a list?
    Okay, so monkey wrench ’em.
    Channel Gary Oldman and EVERYONE!™ download Obsidian 4.

  6. Not sure about drones — most are imported from China.

    Besides, did you read about the jihadi who forgot to charge his bomb-laden drone? Its automatic home-on-low-power feature kicked in and delivered the bomb back to him.

    1. ITAR doesn’t make sense in a lot of ways.

      That drone made in China and bought in a US store? Covered by ITAR.

      PGP downloaded from a site in Denmark? Illegal to have on your computer for a trip to Denmark.

      1. It’s kind of like OSHA in that regard.
        But, trying to use logic on the government will just drive you crazy.
        It’s government- no logic is involved.

      2. While fulminating against ITAR (and against other export regulations — ITAR is just one of them) is fine, it’s useful to apply up to date information. ITAR was never successfully applied to ITAR; while the government went after Phil Zimmerman it did not succeed. And subsequently PGP was put under BXA export regulations (CCATS) which are not as draconian. As of some years ago, the regulations treat open source software fairly sanely. There are still crypto software groups who exclude US contributors and contributions because they don’t want to have the program covered by US export regulations at all, but the actual regulations that currently apply to open source software are not a big deal.
        Other country regulations may be more problematic. For example, the US doesn’t have an issue with PGP on your laptop, but bringing it into China, Russia, or France might cause headache.

  7. ITAR is serious and it is equally horseshit and does not reflect the state of how information flows in the 21st century.

    “There is no leeway in ITAR” hahaha ok. Tell that to Pratt who gave a shit load of military helicopter software to China in knowing violation if ITAR and hasn’t faced a single reprocussion from it. It just depends who you are like for anything else.

    I think people are concerned about the generality of the request. Needing info on everyone is far too general, they should be asking for specific downloads. It makes it seem like an open ended fishing expedition. Also downloading an app does not equate to illegally exporting an optic. The scope of the request is too broad.

    And it is software, just print it in a book and go the pgp route.

Only one rule: Don't be a dick.

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