If you use the ATN Obsidian 4 app on your iPhone or Android, the U.S. government may want to know who you are and how to find you.
Obsidian 4 is an app created by ATN, makers of popular night-vision rifle scopes, that lets owners view a live stream from, take video and calibrate their scopes. It has more than 10,000 downloads on the Google Play Store and an unclear number of users on iOS, since the App Store doesn’t disclose download numbers.
And now, Forbes reports that the U.S. Department of Justice is asking for identifying information — including names and phone numbers — on anyone who downloaded the app from Aug. 1, 2017 to today. That includes phone numbers and IP addresses, as well as when the users used the app.
Reportedly, it’s because Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has launched an investigation into violations of weapons export regulations. While ICE isn’t directly investigating ATN, it is looking into illegal exports of the company’s “smart scopes.”
It’s not clear whom exactly ICE is investigating, but the Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium has claimed that the Taliban are using ATN-made scopes. ICE has also reportedly intercepted illegal shipments of ATN scopes.
Some privacy experts are concerned about the undoubtedly broad data grab. Tor Ekeland, a privacy attorney, said the request is tantamount to a “fishing expedition” — and that it could set a dangerous precedent.
“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,” Ekeland told Forbes.
But it isn’t just privacy advocates who are stunned by the order. Former NSA analyst and cybersecurity expert Jake Williams said that “the idea that this data will only be used for pursuing (export) violations is almost laughable.”
In other words, the bigger picture here is not necessarily the gun scopes, the app or its users. It’s the precedent that would be set if the government can just simply ask for large amounts of data on app users who haven’t necessarily done anything wrong.
It’s not currently clear if Apple or Google will comply with the order. In Apple’s case, there’s a lot of reason to think that the company will deny the request. Earlier this year, Apple denied a data request on 58 million users of one app in relation to a terrorism investigation.