Government May ‘Seize’ Your Fingerprint to Unlock Apple Devices, Federal Court Rules


Source:  Shadowproof/Kevin Gosztola

A federal court ruled the United States government is not violating a citizen’s Fifth Amendment rights when they require a citizen to apply his or her fingerprints to a sensor so authorities can access a device.

The government sought authorization to “seize” four residents so their fingers could be applied to Apple devices in a home in order to uncover evidence related to a child pornography case.

But a magistrate judge denied the government’s request for authorization, as part of a search warrant application, because the “compelled pressing of the fingerprint against the Touch ID sensor would violate the Fifth Amendment’s privilege against self-incrimination. The magistrate judge reasoned the fingerprint under these circumstances was akin to implicitly communicating that the device was within that person’s possession and control.”

Apple Touch ID only works for 48 hours before a pass code is required to unlock the device.

Although the Northern District Court of Illinois acknowledged privacy concerns, it maintained [PDF] there is a distinction between compelling an individual to communicate something and compelling a person to “provide some physical characteristic.” The communication cannot be “testimonial.”

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