On Thurdsday, a Virginia Circuit Court judge made a fairly groundbreaking and eye opening ruling involving the police asking someone to unlock their secured smartphone. According to the judge, demanding a suspect to provide the passcode to unlock their phone would be unconstitutional, while a suspect providing their fingerprint to unlock their phone would be fair game.
For those living under a rock, iPhone users since the iPhone 5s have been able to secure their smartphones using a fingerprint, a feature Apple calls TouchID. This was seen as a more convenient, but still plenty secure method of locking a smartphone to keep one’s data secure. If you’re a suspect detained police in Virginia, that’s not the case.
This relates back to the case of a man who allegedly strangled his girlfriend and police believe, may have recorded the act with this smartphone. Because his phone was locked with a passcode (and not a fingerprint), the defendant’s attorney argued that it was protected by the Fifth Amendment given that it would require a suspect to divulge knowledge. This is not in the same category as a person’s identity, which includes DNA, handwriting, or — you guessed it — fingerprints, all of which are within the bounds of the law.
While it would be easy to scoff at iPhone (or even Samsung) users who use fingerprint locking on their devices, keep in mind that Apple has a safeguard for anyone who hasn’t unlocked their phone in 48 hours which requires a secondary passcode be entered in the event that TouchID is enabled. That still gives police plenty of time after a suspect has been apprehended to require a fingerprint for unlocking.
How do you guys feel about the judge’s ruling? If you have a Samsung device, will any of you start using passcodes over the fingerprint scanner to secure your phone? Keep in mind, the NSA is watching this post. We kid…. (we think).