Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Search Warrant to Force Unlocking iPhone With Touch ID

Mitchel Broussard:

For the first time in a federal case, authorities in a Los Angeles courtroom have issued a search warrant forcing a woman to bypass her iPhone’s biometric security using Apple’s Touch ID system (via LA Times).


According to jail records, U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia Rosenberg signed the Touch ID-related search warrant about 45 minutes after Bkhchadzhyan was taken into custody on February 25. By the afternoon of her arrest, the suspect pleaded no contest to the charges of identity theft and gave the court her fingerprint to unlock the iPhone.


The court’s decision in the case follows the thin rules regarding a person’s Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination, which relates that numeric passcodes are protected individual privacies, but fingerprints are not. For this reason, some believe new modern laws need to be enacted specifically detailing fingerprint-related security features.

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Can you imagine the government ever enacting such protections. The same government that is out to force Apple and other companies to actively bypass their security features?

Besides, since those laws are not part of the constitutional protections, they would inevitably be watered down even if enacted. "Not applicable for national security", "Not applicable in 'terrorism' cases", "Not applicable for border search", … "Not applicable to J-walking".

So unless the right to not self-incriminate is extended by reinterpreting the constitution, it's not going to happen.

What is the rationale for the right to deny performing action X on the grounds that it can be self-incriminating?

I.e. John Doe committed a crime and through a court order we ask them to “show us your hand”, why should they be allowed to refuse this?

I consider this separate from the right to privacy and the right to remain silent (I understand why both of these rights should be granted).

Disclaimer: I am not a U.S. citizen.

"Historically, the legal protection against compelled self-incrimination was directly related to the question of torture for extracting information and confessions." (via Wikipedia)

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