Secret Service visit artist upon Apple's request

Apple made full use of its power as a company after artist Kyle McDonald installed a program on computers in two different Apple Stores in the city of New York. As Mashable reports, the result of his actions is that his personal computers have been seized by the Secret Service. The program he installed would take a picture of users of the computer every minute, and his reasoning? He wanted to observe how other people view and use computers.

It is usual for the Apple Stores to wipe their display computers each night, and as a result, McDonald had to reinstall the program at the two locations daily. When he had the images he required for his project, he chose to upload them to a Tumblr blog. He then set up an exhibition on Sunday, July 3rd. At the exhibition people were able to see pictures of themselves - and nobody was reported to have made a fuss or complained. During the course of his rather unique project, McDonald had roughly 100 different computers running the program at one time, discovering that Apple monitor their store's network traffic.

McDonald received an image from Cupertino itself, where Apple is headquartered. The image showed an Apple technician using the computer and he assumed that Apple themselves had no real issue with the program as it appears they installed it themselves. He was proved wrong in this assumption after four members of the Secret Service contacted him at his home in Brooklyn, with a search warrant for 'computer fraud'. They confiscated two computers, an iPod and two USB memory sticks, telling him that Apple would contact him at a later date.

Kyle McDonald possesses a master's degree in electronic arts and admits the project may make some people uncomfortable. However, he said also that if someone contacted him and requested the removal of their photograph he would oblige them. He also attained permission from security guards at the stores in order to take photographs and asked the permission of customers in order to also take photographs. If he had not received permission from both parties he claims he would not have proceeded with his project. He believes he has not violated any laws in the United States by attempting this project. In addition, Kyle has uploaded a video to Vimeo about his project.

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56 Comments

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Apple are just annoyed they didn't think of this.
It's a cool little thing and Apple are just annoyed they didn't think of it.

Come on, computer fraud? What exactly is being subject to fraud?

If somebody, any branch of the government comes to my house to confiscate my data and personal computers and iPod, etc, they better be prepared for me to use my second amendment right to protect my property.

Secret service? WTF!?!?
Who knows, maybe he's a terrorist of art

so he stood by the computers all day? and said can i take you picture? just use this mac? ye i call bull**** .... in England this would be a criminal offence and if it isnt in america and he gets away with it then america is more f'ed then i have always thought (but i think computer fraud is a bit of an extreme charge, give him a few hours community service a fine and ban him from apple stores)

secrete service seems like overkill for this, FBI should of been involved, but the SS seems like they took it way too far

Apple discovers a hidden app on their display computers taking photos of customers and uploading them to the internet.

Apple calls the authorities.

I don't see the big deal here. I'd do the same if I discovered something like that.

littleneutrino said,
I saw the video a few days ago and thought it was interesting however, it do not see how this constitutes fraud in any way.

I guess because he installed an application onto someone elses computer without permission?

littleneutrino said,
I saw the video a few days ago and thought it was interesting however, it do not see how this constitutes fraud in any way.

It's not - it would be under the computer misuse act (UK) or the US equivalent which describes misuse or unauthorised of a computer, software or data for any purpose. The security guards wouldn't be in a position to authorise his actions either.

Unless of course they are saying that he's lying about the purpose of taking the images - in which case it could be called fraud but it would be wierd.

Uplift said,
Not one stunner on the selection of images from the blog, fail.

But dont they look more cool and hip using Apple products. Look at the guy in the Nike tight Dri-Fit shirt, doesnt he look cool wearing that. It can work outside of the gym or sports practice haha

Doli said,

But dont they look more cool and hip using Apple products. Look at the guy in the Nike tight Dri-Fit shirt, doesnt he look cool wearing that. It can work outside of the gym or sports practice haha

For someone trying to mock people for being too image conscious; you sure pay a lot of attention to what people are wearing.

geoken, he's looking at pictures of people. Normally clothes are something you notice when looking at pictures of people.

Secret Service is a bit overboard, police or FBI yea but Secret Service...
He says that he got permission to take photographs but I wonder if he left out the part that the pictures would be taken by installing software on a stores computers. And he asked the security and customers only, why not the store manager?

Doli said,
Secret Service is a bit overboard, police or FBI yea but Secret Service...

Seems like a juristriction thing, not an OMG let's get Jack Bauer in here, and yes I know he worked for CTU

acnpt said,

Seems like a juristriction thing, not an OMG let's get Jack Bauer in here, and yes I know he worked for CTU

Actually, it feels more like Apple Corporate made a call and the government jumped high...

Apple made full use of its power as a company after artist Kyle McDonald installed a program on computers in two different Apple Stores in the city of New York.

Well, this "program" is basically a trojan running in accounts with limited privilege. Guess apple should have enabled AppLocker (or software restrictions policies) or whatever the name is on osx to prevent that from happening!

Now apple fanboys will be shocked to hear that you don't have to type the root password to install malwares on a computer running on a standard user account (whether it runs linux/osx/windows)

McDonald received an image from Cupertino itself, where Apple is headquartered. The image showed an Apple technician using the computer and he assumed that Apple themselves had no real issue with the program as it appears they installed it themselves.

this just mean that the apple technician examining a sample infected computer didn't expect it to take pictures of him!

It is usual for the Apple Stores to wipe their display computers each night, and as a result,
discovering that Apple monitor their store's network traffic.

shows how much apple is confident that macs can't get malwares!

link8506 said,


shows how much apple is confident that macs can't get malwares!

This has nothing to do with malware on Macs, just with clean install after thousand of people play and make changes to files and system each day.

alexalex said,
This has nothing to do with malware on Macs, just with clean install after thousand of people play and make changes to files and system each day.

well, the macguard episode and this clearly show the need to wipe display computers is now a way to remove malwares installed by users, not just to clean messed desktops, even if demo sessions are not root sessions.

LaP said,
At work our computer are locked but you can still use mobile apps from My Documents folder.

that's why good sysadmins use software restriction policies (on xp) or applocker (on windows 7) to prevent user from running unknown craps on their limited account!

Teebor said,
LOL looking at those pictures those people seem to be VERY happy to being using the computers

what a shock!
People interested in buying macs in real life don't seem as happy and good looking as the actors figuring in apple's TV ads!

how can they be not excited or delighted to stand in front of such magical devices?
why would the TV ads lie about the amount of hapiness provided by the purchase of an apple product? ^^

link8506 said,

what a shock!
People interested in buying macs in real life don't seem as happy and good looking as the actors figuring in apple's TV ads!

how can they be not excited or delighted to stand in front of such magical devices?
why would the TV ads lie about the amount of hapiness provided by the purchase of an apple product? ^^

TV ads lie about the happiness provided by every product and service. Why single out Apple.

geoken said,
TV ads lie about the happiness provided by every product and service. Why single out Apple.
Cause this is an article about Apple? Anyway, he wasn't being serious ... notice the "^^".

He got the permission of every single person he has pictures of? Obviously not if he has apple employees who were investigating.

link8506 said,
funny how these 2 events involve Macs, even though people usually believe that trojan and other kind of malwares can't exist on Macs.
When you have physical access to a machine, pretty much anything goes.

Apple likes to keep the machines unlocked so people can experiment with them. Since they're restored at the end of each day, there's no real harm in it. This guy was just ridiculously persistent.

Elliott said,
When you have physical access to a machine, pretty much anything goes.

yes, but a lot of people still use to think that non-windows computers are safe from any form of malware, even with physical tampering.

however, on windows, with bitlocker/TPM, a bios password, and applocker, you should be safe even if a bad guy has physical access to your computer, even if the user session is open. There would be no need to wipe everything every night.

no-sweat said,
I don't understand why the Secret Service is involved. Police, yes... FBI, maybe... not the Secret Service. Eh??

Secret service deal with certain computer crimes

This could have been any computer company's store. Just the fact that this individual did this behind the backs of Apple and it's customers is totally wrong. We can only assume what he is saying about his project is true. . .

Apple (and anybody running a store where computers are turned on) should really set strict permissions on those computers.

And they did the right thing by alerting the authorities. What this guy did was too creepy.

Julius Caro said,
Apple (and anybody running a store where computers are turned on) should really set strict permissions on those computers.

And they did the right thing by alerting the authorities. What this guy did was too creepy.


If this wasn't the case I would agree with you:
"He also attained permission from security guards at the stores in order to take photographs and asked the permission of customers in order to also take photographs. "

InfiniteLuke said,

If this wasn't the case I would agree with you:
"He also attained permission from security guards at the stores in order to take photographs and asked the permission of customers in order to also take photographs. "

If would have been ok if he took the photos with a camera, but it is illegal to install software on PCs even if they are on display.

InfiniteLuke said,

If this wasn't the case I would agree with you:
"He also attained permission from security guards at the stores in order to take photographs and asked the permission of customers in order to also take photographs. "

Yea but that doesn't mention install software on a computer and take pictures of people without their knowledge. What happens if there was only 1 person in the shop? He never asked every customer in the shop could he take pictures of them. Unless he stood at the door all day long, asking every person who entered the store could he take a picture of them.

Don't know about Apple store but most of the time security guards are subcontractor. They do not speak in the name of the store owner which is also the owner of the products inside the store.

Asking the manager of the store would have been a better idea.

InfiniteLuke said,

If this wasn't the case I would agree with you:
"He also attained permission from security guards at the stores in order to take photographs and asked the permission of customers in order to also take photographs. "

Yep, the security guards don't manage/own the store so how can they give permission?

alexalex said,

If would have been ok if he took the photos with a camera, but it is illegal to install software on PCs even if they are on display.

I've only set foot inside an apple store once, and will never do so again, but I have never seen a sign ANYWHERE saying you couldn't install software...in fact I was under the impression from reading an article somewhere that apple encourages users to fully try their hardware in the store...so this could be considered "trying". Prove me wrong?

InfiniteLuke said,

If this wasn't the case I would agree with you:
"He also attained permission from security guards at the stores in order to take photographs and asked the permission of customers in order to also take photographs. "

It's not the Security Guards he should have asked permission of, it was the Store Manager and then at the very least posted a sign alerting users of the experiment and requiring a signature of approval.

What he did was ...well yeah...Creepy.

SirEvan said,

I've only set foot inside an apple store once, and will never do so again, but I have never seen a sign ANYWHERE saying you couldn't install software...in fact I was under the impression from reading an article somewhere that apple encourages users to fully try their hardware in the store...so this could be considered "trying". Prove me wrong?

Look at it this way, if Apple said you can use the computer however you want would that absolve you if you decided to install an app on each machine and use them to send spam. Just because Apple says "do what you want" doesn't mean you can freely break laws.

InfiniteLuke said,

If this wasn't the case I would agree with you:
"He also attained permission from security guards at the stores in order to take photographs and asked the permission of customers in order to also take photographs. "

Did he get permission from every person he photographed? No.

episode said,

Did he get permission from every person he photographed? No.

The quote you used in your post actually disputes your post...

excalpius said,

The quote you used in your post actually disputes your post...

From the CNET article on this:
"He reportedly claims he asked Apple's security guards whether he could take pictures inside the stores. He also reportedly took pictures of people with a camera. And no one objected to that. Although it's not as if those people were featured in his works of art. Many of those people may not yet know that they have been committed to posterity."

The Gizmondo site also clearly states two stores and he had a camera that he used when he asked permission.

So that means he asked people about photographing them with a clearly visible camera. Entirely different than an app on machines. Also, he did this in two location simultaneously, I guess you think he could be in two places at once?

alexalex said,

If would have been ok if he took the photos with a camera, but it is illegal to install software on PCs even if they are on display.

I never heard of that law - you are also assuming they had no idea it was coming from the machines, and the article doesn't say that at all.

In before accusations of Apple controlling the government/police/whatever.

Fairly sure they found it then called the authorities, and then the authorities decided what to do.

Or the authorities are Apple's own private army. Whatever.

iKenndac said,
Or the authorities are Apple's own private army. Whatever.
This is what all the Apple haters will say for sure.

dhan said,
yea, artist or not - what this guy did was illegal IMO

Not if he had permission from the store and from the users to do so.

shinji257 said,

Not if he had permission from the store and from the users to do so.

He had permission from security guards (who are not Apple store employees) and from shoppers to take pictures, not to install personal software and take snapshots that way. Unless the article isn't giving complete info. And he installed the software repeatedly on numerous machines. Illegal.

error404ts said,
He had permission from security guards (who are not Apple store employees) and from shoppers to take pictures, not to install personal software and take snapshots that way. Unless the article isn't giving complete info. And he installed the software repeatedly on numerous machines. Illegal.
They didn't even state what software this was, so how do you know that it was illegal to install on numerous machines repeatedly? You do know there exists several software licenses that would allow that?

And if he had the consent of the shoppers, I fail to see how this can be illegal?