Apple don’t bring the hammer down on @kcimc too hard

Pt 101253

Hey Apple, we heard you sent the secret service after an artist in NYC

Artist Kyle McDonald installed a program on computers in two New York Apple Store locations that automatically takes a photo every minute. Now his personal computers have been confiscated by the U.S. Secret Service. McDonald’s project was to capture people’s expressions as they stare at computers, a subject he had first explored in a recording he made of his own computer time over two days using the same program.

Look, we don’t know enough about the legality of what Kyle may or may have not done, but it seems mostly harmless. Apple, just remember one thing – Apple was founded by a hacker and an artist imagine if the Secret service took away everything you had when you started out… Do what you gotta’ do, but don’t completely destroy the kid?

100405 Tech Appleex
Apple was started by two hacky dudes – Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, and the long road to the iPad. – By Tim Wu @ Slate Magazine

The two young men, electronics buffs, were fiddling with a crude device they’d been working on for more than a year. That day was their eureka moment: Apple’s founders had managed to hack AT&T’s long-distance network. Their invention was a “blue box” that made long-distance phone calls for free. The two men, in other words, got started by defrauding the firm that is now perhaps Apple’s most important business partner.

The anti-establishment spirit that underpinned the blue box still gives substance to the iconoclastic, outsider image Apple and Steve Jobs have long cultivated. Back in the 1970s, the inventors reinforced their company’s ethos with their self-styling as counterculturals. Both men had long hair and opposed the Vietnam War. Wozniak, an inveterate prankster, ran an illegal “dial-a-joke” operation; Jobs would travel to India in search of a guru.

But the granular truth of Apple’s origins was a bit more complicated than the simplifying imagery suggested. Even in these beginnings, there was a significant divide between the two men. There was no real parity in technical prowess: It was Wozniak, not Jobs, who had built the blue box. And it was Wozniak who conceived of and built the Apple and the Apple II—the personal computer that would be unquestionably the most important Apple product ever and arguably among the most important inventions of the latter 20th century. Jobs was the businessman and the dealmaker, essential as such, but hardly the founding genius of Apple computers, the man whose ideas became silicon and changed the world. That was Wozniak.

Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak also jammed TVs. They are the first tv-b-gone 🙂

“When I was in high school Steve Wozniak and I, mostly Steve, made this little device called a “TV JAMMER” it was this little oscillator that put out frequencies that would screw up the TV. Woz would have it in his pocket and we’d go in to like the dorm at Berkeley where he was going to school and a bunch of folks would be watching like Star Trek and he’d screw up the TV, somebody would go up to fix it and just as they had their foot off the ground he’d turn it back on! If they put their foot back down on the ground he’d screw up the TV again, within 5 minutes have someone like this [Steve Jobs posing all pretzel looking] for the rest of the Star Trek episode.” – Steve Jobs

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  1. it’s spelled "Berkeley". (extra e) used to live there.

  2. DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice. Do not take internally. Not for the other use. And stuff like that.

    Um… I don’t *quite* see how this is illegal? Close to the line, perhaps… but not quite over it?

    1) I believe you are under video surveillance when you are in the Apple store. You certainly are in most stores in general (Walmart, convinece stores, etc) – so, no expectation of privacy.

    2) The computers in question are left out for people to use; no login requested or desired. There is no “Acceptable Use Policy” posted. People in general use them all the time. Therefore, it’s not “unauthorized” use or “hacking” (or more technically, cracking). This also applies to the WiFi network in Apple stores.

    So – what laws did he break? (now – ethically, I don’t think he should have done it, without notifying people — a small sign next to the machines in question would do; “Note: you are being recorded using this computer for an art project, you may appear on the internet – Thanks!” — but I don’t quite see how it’s against the law).

  3. I don’t agree.
    The people having their picture taken had no option to opt out here.
    They had a reasonable expectation of privacy in looking at the computer and this artist took that away from them.

    It is a violation of trust, and I would be livid if I was taken advantage of for someone’s art project.

  4. @nathan – no one has an option to opt out of the cameras the apple store has, recording you, as you walk in either.

    the people were using a “public” computer and if you’ve been there, this isn’t any “reasonable expectation of privacy”.

    what trust was violated?

    we are not lawyers, but we will say this – art is one of the things that can question the nature of something or social norms, it looks like this artist did just that.

  5. Maybe we should all build a blue box and send it to Apple?

  6. @adafruit
    Privacy isn’t an all or nothing thing.
    If someone takes a picture of a crowd of people and posts it to their flickr account, it will be seen mostly by their friends and I will just be one of the crowd.

    If someone walked into the apple store with a camera, and systematically took a picture of each customer and staff member, I would expect them to be booted out pretty quickly and for the average person to feel somewhat disturbed by their actions.

    This guy went further and did it surreptitiously so that people wouldn’t even have the chance to confront him and object, and then he went and put it online with the entire focus that these people would be viewed by a large audience.

    When I walk into a store I don’t expect to be posted on a blog to be made fun of.
    Some guy’s choice of hats is now being ridiculed by anonymous posters, an older man is being laughed at for even considering to want a computer.

    Those people are likely now the butt of jokes at home and work.

  7. @nathan – again, we are not lawyers, it will be interesting to see what (and if) any laws were actually broken. this specific “art” work is raising questions, art sometimes does that.

  8. @adafruit; So if you’re in a store and I walk up to you, take a photo from 18″ in front of your face and then walk away without a word of explanation, you’re not going to be the least bit concerned? Because I know I would be, and if it was a photo (video/audio recording is possible too, given the context) of my young child, I think I might be more than a little concerned.

    I want to say, “meh, it’s just art,” and I definitely think being raided by the SS is a bit over the top, but I’m not comfortable with what he did. Ironically, maybe that just makes it good art? I recognize that it doesn’t make me very open minded, at the very least.

    Anyway, Apple didn’t “send in the Secret Service.” They reported a security incident to the police, who would have had to decide to on an appropriate course of action themselves, because they don’t (yet) take orders from any corporate masters. Do they?

  9. @bruce, we’re not lawyers, we do not know about the legalities of this, we’re not sure if it’s even “good art” – who are we to say. however, as you said – being raided by the SS is a bit over the top.

  10. Sorry to have repeated much of what Nathan said, I can’t believe it took me (with interruptions) 20 minutes or more to write that post.

  11. I am not a fan of big anything, but three things strike me. 1. Isn’t the Apple Store private property? 2. Was the artist actually hired by Apple for this project? 3. Were the persons photographed asked to sign a model release?

  12. @mark

    1) yes, but some will argue it’s a public space without expectation of privacy

    2)no details known

    3)not known, but if the artist claims it’s a public space you do not need a model release and not used for advertising / endorsement, but that’s where lawyers / courts come in if there is debate

  13. So because it’s “art” it’s ok? What if the same thing was done by a non-artist?

    The difference between Apple Stores security cameras and this, is that Apple Stores aren’t uploading their footage to the web and allowing others to comment on it. If they were, there would most definitely be an uproar at minimum.

    I’m not sure I understand the public space argument either. I’m pretty sure an Apple Store isn’t a public space; I mean, Apple pays the rent. Is your home a public space?

    At the end of the day, it is an over reaction, but there should be no surprise here. We can’t just say something is “art” to excuse the behavior that is questionable.

  14. @seh – where did anyone say it was “ok” ? in our post (above) we said.. “we don’t know enough about the legality of what Kyle may or may have not done, but it seems mostly harmless. “

  15. If you were riding a ride at Great Adventure and the theme park decided to film or take a picture of you riding the ride so they could make a commercial then they would have to get a model release. Just because I can’t expect privacy and can be filmed in public doesn’t mean that I or other people don’t have rights.

    I don’t know if his ‘art project’ took any pictures of children but can children who were under 13 and photographed give consent to having their photographs taken and published on the internet?

    How can security guards give legal permission for something they are unaware of like the method or means of the photography and how can security guard’s permissions be legal for something they don’t own?

    What is the value of a photograph? If it is .01 cents then it may be petty but it is still stealing and it happened to thousands of people. Under normal circumstances, if you wanted to take my picture, you would have to ask and Kyle didn’t.

    When is sharing stealing:

    I suppose he will be punished because they can.

  16. @chuckt – for a clear cut usage such as advertising photographers need to get model releases. this “art project” is not so clear-cut so this is why there is a lot of debate about it.

    on the artist’s site there isn’t any kids, but perhaps this is why the secret service took all his computers.

    all of us can only guess, this is what artists sometimes do – challenge us to think and talk about things.

  17. @adafruit,

    He made the BBC news so he is now world famous:

    The article states "the investigation was taking place under US Code Title 18 /1030 which relates to "Fraud and related activity in connection with computers."

    The link to the US Code Title 18 /1030 is here:

    The security guard doesn’t own the computers so he cannot give permission for the user to access the internet.

    (2) intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access, and thereby obtains—

    "Or exceeds authorized access" may be what Kyle may be guilty of.

    The question is whether his breach qualifies as:

    (C) information from any protected computer;

    Because other people in the store were using the computers, I don’t know how Apple will claim the computers are protected or maybe use of the internet was protected but I really don’t know.

    By installing software and using the internet he could possibly be guilty of:

    (6) knowingly and with intent to defraud traffics (as defined in section 1029) in any password or similar information through which a computer may be accessed without authorization, if—

    That might require Apple to prove they lost money by him using the internet. But there is vague language used and this user gave me the idea to search the law:

    So I hope he has a good lawyer and a judge that understands what this is all about.


  18. thanks chuck, that’s pretty interesting “”Or exceeds authorized access” may be what Kyle may be guilty of.” what is or isn’t authorized on those apple machines? there isn’t any EULA, i’ve seen people install stuff, use USB drives, check email, log in to facebook, video chat, etc, etc – apple doesn’t say what is or isn’t allowed on the public computers on display.

    you’re right if apple pursues they’ll need to prove they were damaged or lost money.

    either way, this artist is causing a lot of people to discuss this, if that was the goal, he succeeded.

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