PetaPixel

Apple Sets Secret Service on Artist Over Stealth Apple Store Photos

Yesterday we shared a disconcerting art project by Kyle McDonald in which he installed apps in Apple Stores throughout NYC to secretly photograph customers staring into the computers. We predicted that Apple wouldn’t be too happy about it and, lo and behold, it’s pissed. The company has reportedly enlisted the help of the US Secret Service to investigate McDonald’s actions. Mashable writes,

[...] four Secret Service men in suits woke him up on Thursday morning with a search warrant for computer fraud. They confiscated two computers, an iPod and two flash drives, and told McDonald that Apple would contact him separately.

McDonald, who has a master’s degree in electronic arts, admits the project might make some people uncomfortable. Before he began, he got permission from Apple’s security guards to take photos in the store, then asked customers if he could take their photos (with a camera). Had they all said no, he says, he wouldn’t have proceeded.

It’ll be interesting to see how this case turns out, but it appears to be another example of a common sense fail when it comes to photography.

(via Mashable)


 
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  • http://twitter.com/Samcornwell Sam Cornwell

    I support you Kyle.

  • Anonymous

    Apple’s likely upset that none of the people in the images look particularly pleased to be in the Apple store or impressed with the hardware…

  • http://twitter.com/bradywilliams18 Brady WIlliams

    wait wait, i don’t understand why this is a “common sense fail” he didn’t break any laws so far as i can see…i think it’s a really interesting art project.

  • http://twitter.com/bradywilliams18 Brady WIlliams

    wait wait, i don’t understand why this is a “common sense fail” he didn’t break any laws so far as i can see…i think it’s a really interesting art project.

  • Anonymous

    I think that’s easy.  He didn’t have permission to add software to or alter computers he doesn’t own.  At the very least, that’s a property crime.  Then there’s the fact the software does what might amount to recorded eavesdropping, often a crime if done without the permission of those being recorded.  I don’t get why he thought that setting up Apple’s computers to take the photos is the legal equivalent of taking photos with his own cameras.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PQ54IG5P6I73FWHYGC4LVDZQYI Michael

    Haha.  For maybe the first time ever I’m on Apples side with something.  Never thought that would happen!

  • http://www.tyleringram.com TylerIngram

    There is the other part where did everyone “agree” to have their photos taken? Last I checked Apple stores aren’t a true “public” place. Which would go against a photographer’s rights..right?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=673406604 Jon Liebold

    Calling in the Secret Service was overkill. Yes the guy was not in his rights to install the software but a) the machines would have been set up in such a way that this should have been impossible and b) it is a matter that could have been settled using Apple’s own legal team.

    This is another example of a corporation using government resources for its own ends. Just another reason, besides Steve Jobs’ theft of organs, to have zero respect for Apple.

  • chocho

    It was a silly thing to document in the first place.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=673406604 Jon Liebold

    Generally as I have seen it, you are allowed to photograph in a private place that is open to the public unless there is a stated policy or you are told to stop.

  • http://www.facebook.com/happytinfoilcat HappyTinfoil Cat

    Wrong. No expectation of privacy.

    If the software is deemed malicious, he could be in hot water. It would have been better to have the software running on his own machine and then point the Apples to it. I could point display laptops to goatse or better yet, chatroulette but that wouldn’t really be installing software that could be considered hostile.

    Apple gets their panties in a bunch over things like using the headphone volume button as a shutter release. They get real nasty about it, then turn right around and release the same thing after they’ve yanked the creative peoples’ stuff from AppStoar.

    I don’t think what he did was illegal unless laws are stretched quite a bit. Apple may have a civil suit or even worse, banning the Apple fanboi for life. The cynic in me says Apple will ‘examine’ the confiscated devices for malware, and release their own version. Good luck to him getting his toys back, and hopefully, not bricked.

  • http://www.facebook.com/happytinfoilcat HappyTinfoil Cat

    Candid photography is not a crime.

  • http://twitter.com/munche munche

    So I assume you also support the rights of the school that set the laptops to take pictures of the kids and send them back to them without permission, right? This is the exact same thing, except in this case the computers aren’t even his.

  • http://twitter.com/G4v1n0 Gavin D’Souza

    Amen. When I read the first story yesterday, I was fuming at this ‘artist’ dude for attempting to abuse a legal loophole and giving photographers everywhere a bad name. Then I saw Apple’s (typically excessive) reaction, and didn’t feel so bad anymore. They could have just sued him quietly. I could never trust a company that makes itself appear so paranoid.

  • http://twitter.com/G4v1n0 Gavin D’Souza

    Amen. When I read the first story yesterday, I was fuming at this ‘artist’ dude for attempting to abuse a legal loophole and giving photographers everywhere a bad name. Then I saw Apple’s (typically excessive) reaction, and didn’t feel so bad anymore. They could have just sued him quietly. I could never trust a company that makes itself appear so paranoid.

  • http://twitter.com/Seshan Seshan

    Wow I didn’t see this coming at all /sarcasm

  • http://twitter.com/michaelturcotte Michael Turcotte

    Except the pictures were taken when the kids had an expectation of privacy and while they were on private property.

  • Michael Young

    Absolutely right, I totally agree Brady.
    Overtly taking photographs with your own camera is one thing; covertly taking them by secretly interfering with someone else’s equipment is another.
    What Kyle McDonald has done is equivalent to phone hacking, and illegal.
    Interesting exercise though.

  • robbie

    if i were in charge of this case, i would have the charges dropped in the name of art. blah blah blah art is subjective, but some say this is objective… right… i just think that if copyright laws can be bent for artistic social commentary, then i would similarly rally on McDonald’s behalf.

    his project hit me like a bad epiphany: it looks like humans really lose their personality when interacting with a computer, and i wouldn’t look forward to the future if that’s how the future of technology going to be.maybe that’s why i should stick to making art, not laws…

  • Mr.New

    No where in the article(s) state, Apple called in the Secret Service. How could Apple be sure that illegally installed app was for an “art project,”—instead, it could have been for more serious, more malicious act, like planning for a terrorist attack. Apple likely reported to Department of Homeland Security who than sent “Secret Service” agents to the artist’s home. I could be or am probably completely wrong—but, I am just arguing that Apple’s actions are not excessive. 

    Oh, also “wiretapping” is illegal in the US. The function of the app definitely falls under “wiretapping” as this recording “device” was undeniably concealed.

  • Mr.New

    But concealed recording device is… (see wiretapping).

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7CJJDFD3QRP4OJXDYM56T7PYCU Daniel

    When did the secret service get bought by Apple? At worst this is a civil matter.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7CJJDFD3QRP4OJXDYM56T7PYCU Daniel

    So this is a matter for the Secret Service? I don’t think so.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe not. But you need to keep in mind that it probably doesn’t look that different from espionage, from a legal stand point.  You have a mass hacking of computers and using them to transmit information to a remote place.  It’s a good thing that there wasn’t ill intent, but having good intentions doesn’t automatically free you from the consequences of breaking the law.

  • Anonymous

    Well, it would appear the Secret Service disagree in this instance, but I’m sure they’ll be happy to consult you first in the future.

  • http://www.ddw.ca DDW Calgary Web Design

    What if Apple has been secretly recording people for years and using it as ‘market research’? It would not surprise me. This is an interesting case though. Do the people portrayed have a reasonable expectation of privacy? As far as Apple is concerned, I’d like to see what they claim as damages.