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Court Rules Cops Can Demand Fingerprints To Unlock Smartphones, But Not Passcodes


A Virginia Circuit Court decided this week that if the cops suspects you’ve committed a crime, then they can demand your fingerprints, but not passcodes.

You know that the iOS 8 is released with an improved privacy settings that enables users to store their information encrypted and protected from thieves and even governments. So now Apple can’t hand over any information stored on your device to law enforcement, even with a warrant, because it’s technically impossible to access data protected by a passcode.
The reason behind this court statement is, a Virginia man accused of attempting to kill his girlfriend after a fight. Police suspected the man recorded the argument on his phone and wanted to use the video as evidence during trial. According to The Virginian-Pilot report, it’s unclear whether the phone in question requires a passcode or fingerprint to unlock it. If the phone uses both security measures, the ruling against forced passcode disclosures still applies.

Take away message:

The Critical word here is “SUSPECTED”.  The Police were on a fishing trip – they didn’t know what the phone data contained (they could have obtained this from the operator if the data had been transmitted via the Telco).

However, the UK can demand your password – and give you 2 years in jail if you refuse – as the refusal is an offence.
It would be interesting to see this challenged in the EU court of Human Rights.  Should it be an offense to withhold your password?  Are you entitled to a right to silence?
More importantly, this should drive a nail into the coffin of “BIOMETRIC” security – it never was worth much, but this court makes it a real liability.  If your laptop has a biometric fingerprint reader security – disconnect it – go back to passwords and encrypt the disk.
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