WHEN NEW SECURITY tech is unveiled, most people spend more time analysing the protection and convenience it offers, rather than legal questions. But if the FBI wants access to your phone, can they use your face?
We have a partial answer to that question, as Forbes reports that agents conducting a raid did indeed use the suspect's face in a child pornography case. The agents "placed the [phone] into airplane mode and examined it by looking through the files and folders manually and documenting the findings with pictures."
It's a partial answer because the suspect cooperated, though. What would have happened if he hadn't is more of a legal grey area. The Fifth Amendment vows to protect individuals from incriminating themselves in legal cases, which is why suspects are under no obligation to hand over passcodes. But biometrics have been viewed as different, as they're not knowledge - even though body parts do exactly the same thing as a passcode: unlocking a phone.
In this particular case, the face only helped so much, because Face ID just provides access to the phone itself. To pull all the data off the phone onto a computer for a full forensic investigation, the FBI will need the suspect's pass code - and they have sought a second warrant to obtain it. Though if past rulings are anything to go by, the suspect won't have to oblige.
If that sounds confusing enough, it gets more mixed up in investigations involving the dead. Fingerprint unlocks work on the deceased victims, but Face ID has ‘liveness detection' which prevents access. Forbes reports that two anonymous New York drug cops have tried to open iPhone X handsets belonging to overdose victims to no avail. µ
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