A U.S. federal court in Illinois has ruled that police can’t use warrants to demand that fingerprint unlocks be provided for all devices in a particular building. (Via AppleInsider)
Although taking fingerprints doesn’t automatically violate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure, the context in which they’re obtained can, magistrate Judge M. David Weisman wrote in his opinion, according to Forbes. Police were asking for access to multiple devices on a property involved in a child pornography investigation.
“In the instant case, the government is seeking the authority to seize any individual at the subject premises and force the application of their fingerprints as directed by government agents,” Weisman noted. “Based on the facts presented in the application, the Court does not believe such Fourth Amendment intrusions are justified based on the facts articulated.”
The warrant in question was missing specific information pertaining to the people living on the property, other than the name of one person thought to be residing there. The warrant was also vague concerning the types of electronics believed to be inside the building, saying only that it was “likely that Apple brand devices” were present.
U.S. police departments have in the past been successful in obtaining warrants for unlocking fingerprint-protected devices. While courts have allowed such warrants, they have protected devices locked with only a numerical password, saying that is covered by Fifth Amendment protections.
Police have found ways around passcode locks, most notably is the FBI’s hiring of an outside security firm to help it unlock the data on an iPhone 5c used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook.