Latest in Gear

Image credit:

Judge orders woman to unlock iPhone with her fingerprint

It's the first time a judge has demanded fingerprint access in a federal case.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
May 1, 2016
Share
Tweet
Share

Sponsored Links

Glenn Chapman/AFP/Getty Images

It's still not perfectly clear whether or not law enforcement can force you to unlock your phone with your fingerprint, but an LA court isn't waiting to find out: for the first time in a federal case, a judge has ordered a person to unlock her smartphone using her digits. The FBI obtained a warrant requiring that identity theft suspect Paytsar Bkhchadzhyan unlock her iPhone through Touch ID just 45 minutes after her arrest. While it's not certain what the FBI was looking for, Bkhchadzhyan eventually pleaded no contest to the charge.

The authority to do this appears to be based around a blend of legal decisions. The Supreme Court has ruled that police can search your phone if they have a warrant, and that they can order you to produce fingerprints without a judge's approval. However, it's not certain that you can combine the two.

As the LA Times explains, there's a dispute as to whether or not using your fingerprint to unlock your phone is a violation of the Constitution's 5th Amendment, which protects against self-incrimination. While a fingerprint isn't the same as testifying, unlocking your phone could be treated that way. Even with precedent from a 2014 Virginia case (which determined that fingerprints are okay, but passcodes aren't) working in the feds' favor, there's no guarantee that police can order fingerprint access going forward.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
Tweet
Share

Popular on Engadget

Peter Parker has been recast in ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man: Remastered’

Peter Parker has been recast in ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man: Remastered’

View
The Aura Strap adds new tricks to your Apple Watch

The Aura Strap adds new tricks to your Apple Watch

View
Here's everything Google announced at its Pixel 5 event

Here's everything Google announced at its Pixel 5 event

View
Windows 10 for ARM will support 64-bit x64 apps through emulation

Windows 10 for ARM will support 64-bit x64 apps through emulation

View
Google's Pixel 5 includes 5G and an ultrawide camera for $699

Google's Pixel 5 includes 5G and an ultrawide camera for $699

View

From around the web

Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr