Court Rules Police Can Force Users to Unlock iPhones with Fingerprints

Court Rules Police Can Force Users to Unlock iPhones with Fingerprints

A Circuit Court judge in Virginia has ruled that fingerprints are not protected by the Fifth Amendment, a decision that has clear privacy implications for fingerprint-protected devices, according to a report.

Judge Steven C. Fucci ruled that while a criminal defendant can’t be compelled to hand over a passcode to police officers for the purpose of unlocking a cellular device, law enforcement officials can compel a defendant to give up a fingerprint.

The Fifth Amendment states that “no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,” which protects memorized information like passwords and passcodes, but it does not extend to fingerprints in the eyes of the law.

The ruling comes from a case where a man was accused of strangling his girlfriend. Prosecutors believe the man may have stored video of the attack on his phone, and requested the judge force him to unlock it.

About the Author

Matt Holden is an Associate Content Editor for 1105 Media, Inc. He received his MFA and BA in journalism from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. He currently writes and edits for Occupational Health & Safety magazine, and Security Today.

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