September 2019

Federal Government Wants Data From
Apple And Google About
Rifle-Scope App Users

 A recent article in Forbes described an “unprecedented” demand from the federal government to Apple and Google for data relating to at least 10,000 users of a rifle-scope app. The app, Obsidian 4, lets users live-stream, video-record, and calibrate with an iPhone or Android device rifle-scopes made by American Technologies Network Corp. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement is investigating non-licensed export of the rifle-scopes and seeks a court order to aid in “identifying end users located in countries to which export of this item is restricted.” The government seeks data, including telephone numbers and IP addresses, and details on when and where a user used the app.

 Critics of the government’s request, including Tor Ekeland, a “privacy-focused lawyer,” contend that the request is a “fishing expedition” that could extend to other areas, including data-grabs from dating or health apps. Mr. Ekeland was quoted as saying, “The idea that Google could be compelled to turn over, in secret, all of my identifiers and session data in its possession because I downloaded an application for research is such a broad overreach it’s ridiculous … There’s a more profound issue here with the government able to vacuum up a vast amount of data on people they have no reason to suspect have committed any crime.  They don’t have any probable cause to investigate, but they’re getting access to data on them.”

Source:  Thomas Brewster, “Exclusive: Feds Demand Apple And Google Hand Over Names Of 10,000+ Users Of A Gun Scope App,”, September 6, 2019:

Menstrual App Tracking

 A recent Washington Post article described a report from Privacy International, a British “privacy watchdog,” that stated two menstruation-tracking apps, Maya and MIA Fem, reported results relating to sexual health, including details relating to last menstruation, last sex, and contraception use, to Facebook and other entities. The apps collected and shared data with Facebook as soon as the apps were installed on the users’ devices and prior to any privacy-waiver or consent being obtained from the users.

 Privacy concerns arise due to the possible sharing of data with employers, health insurers, and advertisers, and from the potential for abuse from discrimination or targeting of categories of people.

Source:  Marie C. Baca, “These apps may have told Facebook about the last time you had sex,”, September 17, 2019:
Reported at:

Ring Doorbell Partners With At Least
405 Police Agencies

 The company Ring, owned by Amazon, has agreements with at least 405 police agencies nationwide to potentially give access to video from homeowners’ doorbell-camera systems, in what the company described as a “new neighborhood watch.” The police do not automatically get access and do not get live-feeds. Owners of the product receive an email from Ring when police request data, and the owners may then opt out. Ring users agree to allow Ring to send data to law enforcement when the company believes it is legally obligated to do so, and the company may also retain deleted data to comply with legal obligations.

 The Ring doorbell-system currently does not utilize facial-recognition technology, but the company last year applied for a patent for use of facial-recognition technology in the product that would flag “suspicious” persons. Amazon currently has a facial-recognition product, “Rekognition,” which is in use by police departments nationwide.

 Law professor and author Guthrie Ferguson expressed concerns over the growing use of such a neighborhood surveillance system, and that Ring is “playing on consumer fears about crime and security,” and it found “a clever workaround for the development of a wholly new surveillance network, without the kind of scrutiny that would happen if it was coming from the police or government.” Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, a digital advocacy group, said, “It’s a business model based in paranoia … It’s a privately run surveillance dragnet built outside the democratic process, but they’re marketing it as just another product, just another app.”

 Ring also has a public users’ social network, called “Neighbors,” where, anonymously, users/neighbors can report suspicious persons or activity (about 1/3 of the postings), crimes (about 1/4 of the postings), and missing pets (about 1/5 of the postings).
Ring has donated camera systems to some law enforcement departments for distribution, at no cost, to end-users/neighbors.

Source:  Drew Harwell, of the Washington Post, “Doorbell-camera firm Ring teams with 400 police forces, extending surveillance reach,”, August 28, 2019:

by Neil Leithauser
Associate Editor