“Own a rifle? Got a scope to go with it? The US government might soon know who you are, where you live and how to reach you.” So writes Thomas Brewster in an exclusive for Forbes that’s sounding the alarm for tens of thousands of gun-owning, liberty-minded constitutionalists.
As well it should.
Ever since 9/11, the lines between safety and privacy have become blurred, resulting in an increasingly worrisome political taffy pull. In a rather strident move, the government wants Google and Apple to cough up the personal information of at least 10,000 users who have downloaded a gun scope app.
This is essentially what the Department of Justice is requesting in a court order application to identify users of the Obsidian 4 phone app.
In yet another exclusive, American Military News reports that the scope manufacturer – American Technologies Network Corporation – was not informed of the government demand and does not plan to go quietly into the night. The company stated:
“ATN will protect its customers and their identifying data to the absolute extent possible under U.S. law. And, it will not provide any information regarding the identity of our customers to any third party unless specifically required by law.”
Why the Questions?
Obsidian 4 advertises itself as an application that enhances “your experience when using the ATN X-Sight 4K and/or the ThOR 4 product lines. This application connects your smartphone, or tablet, to your ATN device via Wifi.” The app permits the user to watch a live video stream of a hunt on his or her smartphone, review the images, and store them.
If the Silicon Valley tech company caves to this government demand, it will be open season on the data of hunters. Google Play reports that 10,000 people have downloaded Obsidian 4, but Apple doesn’t make such information public. Since the iPhone is the number one smartphone in America with 41.9% of the mobile phone market, this could mean the doxing of tens of thousands of presumably innocent hunters.
Why the need to know? The DOJ is seeking information in connection with an ICE investigation into illegal exports of gun-gear. Forbes reports some online chatter about the Taliban using the scopes, however, “no public charges have been filed related to the company.” The government agency wants to know who has the scope, what they are doing with it, and where they are.
Abandoning the American Way
Naturally, those who value their privacy are appalled by what they consider to be a massive government overreach based on nothing but suspicion. If approved by the federal court, this type of individual data dump into the hands of the government would signal a profound and sweeping invasion of privacy. Legal minds will likely make the case that the feds are requesting information without probable cause. As well, it could open a government data fishing expedition as big as the Arctic. And it could be as chilling, too.
As we sit on the precipice of another 9/11 anniversary, federal authorities are right to be concerned about the possibility of another tragedy equal to or larger than the planned attack that caused utter chaos in New York, Washington, and the fields of Pennsylvania on that fateful day. They should be watchful and vigilant of those who would harm America – but not at the expense of the American way of life which has historically included our right to privacy.