Have you ever done anything that has gotten you into serious trouble with the authorities? Hackers are usual suspects, since they steal user data, but how about artists? What about if you had a really great idea for an art project, and you thought that you were being totally legal, but then it turned out that actually you were breaking the law.
That happened to one man, Kyle McDonald, who set out to create an art project that took a look at the way that we look at computers. As Graham Cluley over on the Sophos Naked Security Blog reports, McDonald went into Apple Stores in New York and installed malware onto the machines in the store. This malware took pictures of people who were looking at the Macbook’s on display, which McDonald then posted on his Tumblr blog, and he made them into a video which is embedded below.
The idea behind the art project was to take a look at how we as human beings look at computers. This was done by taking pictures of people whilst they were looking at the Macbooks in the Apple store without them knowing that a picture was going to be taken. The problem here is that McDonald has been taking pictures of people without their knowledge, and many people have a problem with that.
The legal problem however is not one of privacy, but of security. McDonald has not yet been arrested, but the Secret Service came knocking at his door this morning and took away his laptop. He reported it on Twitter, with a tweet that has since been taken down but was recorded by Sophos, which read “@secretservice just stopped by to investigate peoplestaringatcomputers.tumblr.com and took my laptop. please assume they’re reading any emails you send me.”
The warrant that McDonald received claims that he has violated 18 US Code section 1030 which involves unauthorized access to computers. Whether or not this incident is legal or not is questionable, since he technically had authorized access to those computers (they were on display in an Apple store, everybody does) but on the other hand he did install unauthorized software onto those machines.
The website in question has not been taken down, and currently shows the video McDonald created, as well as several pictures of bored looking people looking slightly down from the camera from six days ago. With his laptop confiscated, it doesn’t seem likely that McDonald will be adding more to the website in the near future.
Do you think that taking pictures of people without their permission should be against the law? Has McDonald done anything illegal? Let us know in the comments below.