A New York artist who decided to install a program to take photos on computers at two New York City Apple stores was detected by Apple and now could be facing a 20-year prison sentence.
Kyle McDonald set up around 100 store computers to take photos every minute in an effort to create images of people staring at computer screens, according to Mashable.
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.
Soon enough someone from Apple realized what was going on, especially when information from 100 store computers was being sent to a specific server and eventually traced it back to McDonald. That's about when McDonald was woken up by U.S. Secret Service agents with a search warrant. They took his various Apple devices and said Apple would be contacting him.
The Atlantic and Mashable seemed to be primarily on the side of the eccentric artist McDonald, referring to Secret Service agents "stealing" his Apple products, or Apple "setting" the federal agents on a starving Brooklyn artist. We don't necessarily believe that anyone should be surprised that, after weeks of downloading a program on 100 store computers to take photos of people without the stores' or various people's permission, the chain might be a little miffed.
"As I understand, photography in public places is legal unless explicitly prohibited," McDonald tweeted.
We hope that McDonald doesn't serve any prison time, but there's a difference between taking photos in public with your own equipment and harnessing other's equipment without their knowledge to take photos at a store -- which is private property, not a public space.