- The Washington Times - Friday, September 6, 2019

The federal government has filed a court order pressuring both Google and Apple to turn over information from thousands of users of the Obsidian 4 gun scope app.

Documents, exclusively obtained by Forbes magazine, have civil liberty experts worried about an investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which may turn into a “fishing expedition” in a sea of innocents.

Cybersecurity writer Thomas Brewster managed to view the order before it was sealed.

In short, ICE’s investigation covers possible breaches of weapons export regulations involving American Technologies Network Corp., although the company itself is not under investigation.

“Investigators are looking for a quick way to find out where the app is in use, as that will likely indicate where the hardware has been shipped,” Mr. Brewster wrote Friday. “ICE has repeatedly intercepted illegal shipments of the scope, which is controlled under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), according to the government court filing. They included shipments to Canada, the Netherlands and Hong Kong where the necessary licenses hadn’t been obtained.”

Google Play statistics put the number of Obsidian 4 downloads over 10,000; Apple, however, does not provide download numbers.

Tor Ekeland, a privacy-focused lawyer, told Forbes the order could be used for a “fishing expedition.”

“The danger is the government will go on this fishing expedition and they’ll see information unrelated to what they weren’t looking for and go after someone for something else,” he told the magazine.

Jake Williams, a former NSA analyst and now a cybersecurity consultant at Rendition Infosec., told Forbes that Google and Apple should fight the request.

“This type of bulk data grab is seriously concerning for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the download of an application does not automatically imply the ‘intended use’ of the application,” Mr. Williams said.

Google, Apple, and ATN did not respond to Forbes’ request for comment prior to publication. 

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