Apple Store webcam “artist” raided by Secret Service

I suspect few among us can say we haven’t been a little bit naughty when visiting an Apple store: leaving an iPad logged into the Microsoft homepage, starting an inappropriate YouTube clip before leaving, or waiting until a local TV news presenter left the store mistakenly still signed in to Twitter and posting juvenile messages in their name. (OK, that only happened once, and it wasn’t me.)

But one New Yorker has managed to take such japery a step too far in Apple’s eyes, leading to a visit from the Secret Service.

Kyle McDonald created and installed an application that used the webcams on Apple store display models to take a photograph every minute. According to Mashable he had to return to reinstall the app every day as Apple resets its store computers every day.

McDonald then published the results to a blog with the indisputable title “People staring at computers” which is designed to inspire people to “think more about our computers and how we use them.”

That wasn’t enough to get him into trouble, however. Instead that came when he remotely triggered a feature in the app that displayed the images in full-screen on around 100 computers across two stores. Amazingly it appears customers had little response to this and didn’t alert store staff.

Unfortunately for McDonald, Apple noticed an unusual pattern of traffic between the stores and his servers. That led to the Secret Service visiting yesterday morning and confiscating his computer equipment.

McDonald hasn’t yet been criminally charged or received a civil complaint. He believes he hasn’t violated any laws, and notes that he asked permission from both security guards and customers to take photos. It appears he omitted to mention this would be through the webcams rather than with a handheld camera.

The Secret Service warrant related to section 1030 of title 18 of the US Code, which is the law on computer fraud.