Illinois Judge Stops Mass iPhone Fingerprint Collection by Police

The US Government’s warrant demanding any Apple electronic device user to forfeit their fingerprints to investigators has been rejected by Illinoi judge Davis Weisman, which effectively has put an end to mass fingerprint collection by police for user privacy.

US Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which reads “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,” does not protect people from fingerprint collection, as accepted by judge Weisman.

In a ruling released this month, judge Weisman stated that the government is asking for a warrant for a case which is essentially non-existent and has failed to provide a sufficient cause to make the demand in the state of Illinois. Judge Weisman further emphasized that the government shouldn’t be able to forcefully gain access of mobile phones, or Apple iPhones in this case, without presenting a rational basis for an allegation or investigation.

“The government has presented an application for a search and seizure warrant to seize various items presumed to be located at a particularly identified location. However, in its warrant application, the government also seeks the authority to compel any individual who is present at the subject premises at the time of the search to provide his fingerprints and or thumbprints ‘onto the Touch ID sensor of any Apple iPhone, iPad, or other Apple brand device in order to gain access to the contents of any such device.’ This aspect of the search warrant application is denied,” read the ruling field on February 16.

One major factor which led to the court and judge Weisman to ultimately decline the warrant of the government was the government’s impetuous presentation of various serious offenses such as child pornography trafficking using internet services or Apple devices. The ground or the basis of the government’s warrant was generalized so that a probable cause wasn’t established and clarified.

“The inclusion of this somewhat dated view of technology certainly does not distract from the application’s goal of establishing probable cause. However, the dated “boilerplate language” is problematic for what is not included. There is absolutely no discussion of wireless internet service and the possibilities and capabilities that wireless service presents in this context,” judge Weisman added.

In an interview, EFF Staff Attorney Andrew Crocker said that courts must begin to protect the privacy of users, like the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois did for their residents. Courts must protect people from irrational intrusion and collection of data, particularly if the government fails or declines to provide any solid ground to support their allegations of an individual or a group of individuals against a particular offense.

Organizations including the US government can’t expect a warrant like the Apple device-finger print forfeiture to be passed with the assumption that each Apple mobile user can have access to illicit digital content.

“This is exactly what we hope courts will do, which is when faced with a situation like this to consider the implications of granting a request and to reject the ones that are too broad,” said Crocker.

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