The Department of Justice did not contact rifle scope manufacturer American Technologies Network Corp. (ATN) before filing a court order on Thursday demanding Apple and Google turn over user data from ATN’s mobile app.
Following initial reporting on the government demand from Apple and Google of user data for the Obsidian 4 app, ATN stated on Friday that they were not aware of the government’s request for information from the tech giants until a Forbes article broke the story. ATN advised they would not be turning over user information to the DOJ unless required by law.
“ATN has not been contacted by the Department of Justice, Apple, or Google,” the company said in a statement to American Military News on Friday.
“ATN will protect its customers and their identifying data to the absolute extent possible under U.S. law. And, it will not provide any information regarding the identity of our customers to any third party unless specifically required by law,” the statement continued.
The turnover of data could affect up to 10,000 app users who have downloaded the app through the Apple Store and Google Play.
The Obsidian 4 app allows its users to pair their phone with their rifle scopes, helping users calibrate their scopes and allowing them to take video and live streams.
Initial reporting of the DOJ information request, indicated the court order was later sealed from public viewing.
Before the court documents were sealed, Forbes reported that part of the court order alleges the company’s scopes have been found in shipments to Hong Kong, Canada and The Netherlands but have not had the necessary import licenses required by the International Traffic in Arms Regulation.
A report published by the Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium also claims the scopes in question had made it into the hands of Taliban fighters.
“The manner in which the ATN Obsidian 4 application is paired with this scope manufactured by Company A supports the conclusion that the information requested herein will assist the government in identifying networks engaged in the unlawful export of this rifle scope,” part of the order reportedly read.
The DOJ’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement department is apparently seeking the data to find end users connected to the shipments of rifle scopes that violated the arms export laws.
Though the import of their products is facing government scrutiny, ATN itself is not under investigation for the alleged export violations.
The government’s requests for app user information sparked backlash from privacy advocates who warned the court order is overly broad and threatens to gather data from innocent users.
Tor Ekeland, a privacy lawyer, said the DOJ order amounted to a “fishing expedition.”
Ekeland warned the government may begin with a focus on one specific case but eventually use the overturned data to pursue other cases against unrelated app users.