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Cops allowed to force user to unlock iPhone with fingerprint

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus

If you thought your iPhone was protected by your fingerprint, think again. A circuit court judge in Virginia recently ruled that fingerprints are not protected by the Fifth Amendment. Judge Stephen C. Fucci stated in part, that while a criminal defendant can’t be forced to hand over a password to police to unlock a cell phone, police are allowed to force a criminal defendant to give up fingerprints. The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution states “no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,” this protects memorized information like passwords but it does not extend to fingerprints.

The judge’s ruling arose from a case involving David Baust, accused of strangling his girlfriend and possibly recording a portion of the attack on his cellphone. If Baust used a password protection option, then he does not have to unlock the phone. However, if it is an iPhone with Touch ID, he could be forced to unlock the device. Nevertheless, Baust still may be protected by law; Touch ID requires a password after 48 hours of not using it, a restart or three failed fingerprint security attempts. Since the cellphone has been in police custody for an extended period of time, it is now more than likely password-protected. The decision by the judge will definitely affect future privacy concerns when it comes to fingerprints.