One of the many images McDonald's app captured at NYC Apple stores
In yesterday's Bits, I linked up Brooklyn artist Kyle McDonald's project People Staring at Computers, in which he created an app that took snapshots, one every minute, of people shopping for computers at Apple stores in New York, and uploaded them to his site. His project description says the project is "exhibited on site with a remotely triggered app that displayed the photos full screen on every available computer."
Now it appears that project may be in jeopardy. On Twitter, McDonald reports that he received a visit from the Secret Service today and they took his laptop. "Please assume they're reading any emails you send me," he tweeted. The site, for now, is still up and running.
McDonald, whose work was featured in last month's Eyeo festival of digital art in Minneapolis, discussed the case a bit more on Twitter today:
Here's a video McDonald created about the project:
Update: Before noting that the Secret Service took "two computers, an iPod and two flash drives, and told McDonald that Apple would contact him separately," Mashable describes how McDonald made it happen:
On three days in June, McDonald’s program documented people staring at computers in Apple stores. Since the stores wiped their computers every night, he had to go back in and reinstall the program each day he took photos. He uploaded a collection of the photos to a Tumblr blog, and last Sunday he set up “an exhibition” at the Apple stores. During the unauthorized event at the Apple stores on West 14th Street and in Soho, when people looked at an Apple store machine, they saw a picture of themselves. Then they saw photos of other people staring at computers. Amazingly, nobody made a fuss.Here's the U.S. code McDonald may be in violation of, entitled "Fraud and related activity in connection with computers."
Over the course of the project, McDonald set up roughly 100 Apple store computers to call his servers every minute. That’s a lot of network traffic, and he learned that Apple monitors traffic in its stores when he received a photo from a Cupertino computer of what appeared to be an Apple technician. The technician had apparently traced the traffic to the site McDonald used to upload the program to Apple Store computers — and installed it himself.
Via Andy Gifford on Twitter.