A recent article from Forbes.com indicated some concerning issue regarding federal government overreach. The Department of Justice (DOJ) is demanding the names and data of Obsidian 4 App users from Apple and Google (Android).
Obsidian 4 is a smartphone app available for download for Android and Apple phone users. The Obsidian 4 app was developed by American Technologies Network (ATN) for use with their thermal weapon sights like the ThOr4 that Rusty and I reviewed.
According to Forbes:
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.
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.”
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) department is seeking information as part of a broad investigation into possible breaches of weapons export regulations. It’s looking into illegal exports of ATN’s scope, though the company itself isn’t under investigation, according to the order. As part of that, 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. 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.“This pattern of unlawful, attempted exports of this rifle scope in combination with the manner in which the ATN Obsidian 4 application is paired with this scope manufactured by Company A supports the conclusion that the information requested herein will assist the government in identifying networks engaged in the unlawful export of this rifle scope through identifying end users located in countries to which export of this item is restricted,” the government order reads.
Yet the Morgovsky family’s problems didn’t end there. In the mid-2000s, ATN, run by Irina Morgovsky’s son, was the subject of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation into possible export-control violations. In 2006, ICE agents executed a search warrant at ATN’s South San Francisco headquarters, but again, no one was charged. (Marc Morgovsky legally changed his last name to Vayn in 2005.)
The Justice Department now alleges that at least from 2012 — and likely for many years before that — the Morgovskys used Hitek and other associated companies as shells for purchasing and exporting American night-vision technology from ATN, the company founded by Irina’s son, as well as from other U.S.-based suppliers. Though Hitek and ATN were separate, in a single year, the Morgovskys would sometimes purchase hundreds of thousands of night-vision gear from ATN, prosecutors said.
If the court signs off on the order, Apple and Google will be told to hand over not just the names of anyone who downloaded the scope app from August 1, 2017 to the current date, but their telephone numbers and IP addresses too, which could be used to determine the location of the user. The government also wants to know when users were operating the app.