Menu
To unlock phones, US prosecutors all occupants surrender fingerprints

To unlock phones, US prosecutors all occupants surrender fingerprints

The US Department of Justice requested the fingerprints of all residents in a search warrant

U.S. investigators are exercising a broad legal authority to force suspects to unlock their smartphones. In a recent case, they demanded that anyone found inside a California residence comply by surrendering their fingerprints.

In May, the federal prosecutors made the request as part of a search warrant, according to a court filing uncovered by Forbes. Those fingerprints were crucial to unlocking the smartphones, the Department of Justice argued.

However, the federal investigators went beyond asking for the fingerprints of one suspect. Instead, they the sought authority to "depress the fingerprints" of everyone located at the California property.

Legal experts say that the request is probably unprecedented, according to Forbes. It comes as law enforcement agencies have been trying to find ways to bypass the security on smartphones as part of their criminal investigations.

The FBI, for instance, entered into a legal battle with Apple to gain access to an iPhone belonging to a San Bernardino mass shooter, by demanding that the company create a backdoor to the device. Although Apple refused to comply, the FBI still managed to unlock the phone through hiring an unknown third-party contractor.

The U.S. courts, however, have given police the legal authority to access smartphones that can be unlocked with a fingerprint by compelling the owner to assist. Earlier this year, investigators obtained a search warrant from a Los Angeles court requiring a girlfriend of an Armenian gang member to use her fingerprint to unlock her iPhone.

Despite the Fifth Amendment, which gives people the right to avoid self-incrimination, a court in Virginia ruled in 2014 that compelling suspects to hand over biometric data, including fingerprints, is still legal. However, divulging secret passwords such as PINs, is not.

The court filing from the federal prosecutors in May also argued that its request didn't violate the Fifth Amendment. Federal investigators didn't know the identity of every phone at the California residence, but Apple, Motorola, HTC and Samsung all produce devices with a fingerprint lock, they argued.

Subscribe here for up-to-date channel news

Follow Us

Join the New Zealand Reseller News newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags government

Featured

Slideshows

StorageCraft celebrates high achievers at its inaugural A/NZ Partner Awards

StorageCraft celebrates high achievers at its inaugural A/NZ Partner Awards

Revealed at a glitzy bash in Sydney at the Ivy Penthouse, the first StorageCraft Partner Awards locally saw the vendor honour its top-performing partners with ASI Solutions, SMBiT Pro, Webroot, ACA Pacific and Soft Solutions New Zealand taking home the top awards. Photos by Maria Stefina.

StorageCraft celebrates high achievers at its inaugural A/NZ Partner Awards
Kiwi resellers make a splash on Synnex and Lenovo RotoVegas road trip

Kiwi resellers make a splash on Synnex and Lenovo RotoVegas road trip

​Synnex and Lenovo hosted 18 resellers for an action-packed weekend adventure in RotoVegas, taking in white water rafting on the Kaituna River, as well as quad biking and dinner at Stratosfare​, overlooking Lake Rotorua at the top of Mount Ngongotaha​. Photos by Synnex.

Kiwi resellers make a splash on Synnex and Lenovo RotoVegas road trip
Show Comments