Latest in Tomorrow

Image credit: NurPhoto via Getty Images

District judge rules FBI needs a warrant to access your lock screen

The man’s lawyer argues that the evidence from the lock screen should be suppressed.
Marc DeAngelis
May 22, 2020
706 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share

Sponsored Links

The lock screen is seen on an iPhone 11 Pro Max in this illustration photo in Warsaw, Poland on April 4, 2020. (Photo Illustration by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
NurPhoto via Getty Images

When police arrested a suspect named Joseph Sam in Washington state last year, an officer hit a button on the man’s phone to bring up its lock screen. Months later, an FBI agent turned the phone on to take a photograph of the lock screen, which contained evidence in the form of a contact, “Steezy.” The suspect’s lawyer filed a motion stating that the obtained evidence was done so without a warrant and should therefore be excluded from any trial. According to Ars Technica, a judge agreed -- at least as far as the FBI’s involvement goes.

The judge put forth that while the police seemed to act within their rights to search the suspects’ lock screen -- since it occurred during an arrest -- the FBI agent in question overstepped their bounds. "Here, the FBI physically intruded on Mr. Sam's personal effect when the FBI powered on his phone to take a picture of the phone's lock screen,” said the Judge in a statement via Ars Technica. In other words, the FBI intruded on the suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights. The judge is seeking further clarification, but in the meantime has granted the suspect’s request to suppress the evidence found via his lock screen.

Law enforcement agents can force a suspect to unlock a phone via biometric methods like facial recognition, though they can’t ask for a PIN. It’s not clear if or how this ruling could be integrated into similar rules and regulations -- searching a lock screen is a rather granular topic, but could prove to be important to users’ privacy.

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
706 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share

Popular on Engadget

Pablo Escobar’s brother is trying to sell refurbished iPhone 11 Pros for $499

Pablo Escobar’s brother is trying to sell refurbished iPhone 11 Pros for $499

View
LG's $1,500 48-inch 4K OLED TV goes on sale next month

LG's $1,500 48-inch 4K OLED TV goes on sale next month

View
Philips Hue leaks show new versatility for Lightstrip Plus and Bloom

Philips Hue leaks show new versatility for Lightstrip Plus and Bloom

View
SpaceX's first crewed mission to the ISS is scrubbed for today

SpaceX's first crewed mission to the ISS is scrubbed for today

View
GeForce Now's new opt-in policy will likely mean a more stable library

GeForce Now's new opt-in policy will likely mean a more stable library

View

From around the web

Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr