G-men pay [Kyle McDonald] a visit

Looks like the men in black have paid [Kyle McDonald] a little visit. The United States Secret Service is investigating him for fraud and related activity for his People Staring At Computers project. We just took a look at that one yesterday, and were thankful that all he was doing was taking people’s pictures and not stealing their information. Looks like [Uncle Sam] wasn’t being as lenient–or it could have been Apple that did the complaining since mums the word from the corporate giant. [Kyle’s] also keeping his mouth shut after soliciting the advice of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Since details are scarce, it’s time to play armchair lawyer. Let us know in the comments what you think [Kyle] might be up against, and whether we’ll see this thing hit the courts or not. And remember not to take those comments as legal advice since none of us actually know what we’re talking about.

By the way, the gentleman seen above isn’t [Kyle], he’s one of the unsuspecting ‘victims’ with some wikimedia commons slapped in for effect.

[Thanks Craig, David, and others]

112 thoughts on “G-men pay [Kyle McDonald] a visit

  1. In cases like this we should always err on the side of privacy. If individuals are comfortable going public with projects like this, I’m left wondering what they are doing that we don’t hear about?

  2. @cidtrips: No, it’s not obvious that he broke any law. Apple has the right to kick someone out for taking pictures, but it’s only illegal if you refuse to leave or go though the “staff only” door, then you’re trespassing. As noted, the privacy violations are a civil matter, the legal issue is with their publication, and depending on the locale, art may be exempt from “commercial use”. Though it’s a good idea to get a model release anyway just because it is civil law, and fighting a baseless claim can be expensive even if you win. In most of the US and Canada there’s no prohibition against taking photos in a public place.

    Installing the software might be illegal but if Apple allowed access with no clear terms of service and he didn’t circumvent any security measures to do so, that’s not clear either.

    And left turns like that are specifically allowed where I live.

  3. Can we all refrain from giving stupid advice?…probably not, this is the internet. I find it disconcerting that there are so many claiming he ‘obviously’ broke the law, or he ‘deserves what he gets’.

    It sounds as though there are too many tight-asses who don’t know a tort from a tortilla giving absolutely terrible advice, and you really cant expect much better on a legal forum because they have as many lawyers there as we do here!

    Personally i hope he gets off. I love it when people stick it to the government over asinine matters when there are SERIOUS issues being ignored.

  4. After reading through the information given by Kyle about his project and assuming he had the permission of the security guard and (key part here) the permission of the proprietor of the apple stores in question then he has not broken any laws. The prosecution will need to prove that damages occurred or that an attempt to defraud was made in order to make a successful case. Proof before guilt and if all he did was take photos using the computers then no fraud was committed ergo no crime.

  5. I’m guessing that the SS (tee hee) just wanted a little info about his methods. Kinda scary that somebody could set up something like that. His use was not sinister, but somebody could have easily set up keyloggers and password capture software. It wouldn’t surprise me if new guidelines were to be implemented regarding publicly-accessed computers because of this.
    As art, I like it. But store policy should have prevented him from doing it without informed permission. At fault: store policy.

  6. 1) This is probably not the secret service. The secret service is tasked with protecting the president, so unless Obama was in that store, there’s no grounds for them to be involved.

    2) These people are in public places. They have no expectation of privacy. I’m also willing to state that every person in that store was photographed on the security cameras many times during the time they were in the store. Even so, a release is not required from the subject being photographed, because again, they’re in a public place. I can photograph you on the street and post the picture online and you would have no recourse so long as I didn’t profit from the photo.

    In summary, whomever initiated the case and raided his apartment has no case. Someone has their facts mixed up and/or doesn’t understand the basics.

  7. Take the guy’s picture down and put your own face up! He should sue your a off.
    Also, most of the project pictures (you make your money with) are really not yours to post.

  8. What a load of BS. Nothing the Feds have not already done. Privacy what a joke.. anyone who believes that is a fool. We left that idea in the road thirty years ago. Argue your semantics all you want while the overlords do their thing unencumbered. Lolz

  9. @chuckt
    At someone point in one of the articles about this, I would have sworn I read that the author talked about how he exploited the systems in place, and installed his software through non-normal means. Now to me, that sounds like a ‘privilege escalation exploit’. And I based my assumptions of his guilt on the idea that he was using some malware-like behaviors in his code.

    I can’t find that reference now. If it was just an editorial mistake, or my reading too much into something, then I was wrong about his guilt. If he did circumvent any password protect, there is still a question about whether what he did warrants fraud charges. I have no clue how apple store computers operate, never been to one.

    I am still confident that monetary gain from use of the likeness of an individual without that person’s consent is still a civil crime in most places. But that’s still no reason for the SS to pull out computer crime laws.

  10. I don’t believe that the reason for the visit was that anyone’s privacy was violated.

    I expect that the charges, if filed will be in the same category as computer penetrators and crackers. He installed software on someone else’s machines without their knowledge or permission. The fact that this was at the level of a prank and absent malice will probably be considered in the event charges are filed, though that’s not guaranteed.

    That, and theft of service for using their net to transport the data.

    I suspect that the only reason he got a visit was probably that Apple bitched (and had to to preserve their rights against other more malicious acts,) that this was very public, and that he was easy to ID/find. The problem is that if they let this go it sets precedent of a sort.

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