Court allows police to force woman to unlock iPhone with Touch ID fingerprint

In a new front in the ongoing fight over iPhone encryption, federal officials in Los Angeles obtained a warrant allowing them to force a woman to unlock an iPhone by holding her fingerprint to the Touch ID scanner, the Los Angeles Times reports. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld decisions allowing police to access phone data with a search warrant and law enforcement’s right to compel a person in custody to provide a fingerprint without a judge’s permission, but legal experts worry that the combined use of these two abilities to unlock a personal device could violate a person’s Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.
The Touch ID method of opening an iPhone provides law enforcement a new route to seize a user’s data, but it’s a limited window since a phone that hasn’t been unlocked in 48 hours requires a passcode to open it. Few courts have considered the issue, but in 2014, a judge ruled that while a defendant could not be forced to disclose his phone’s passcode, he or she could be legally compelled to provide his or her fingerprint, reasoning that taking a fingerprint is more akin to seizing a key, while demanding a passcode is seen as information stored in someone’s mind.

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