New Warrant Allows Law Enforcement Agents To Fingerprint Suspects And Unlock Mobile Devices

Discussions pertaining to privacy when using a mobile device have taken a turn for the worse in recent times. Government officials and law enforcement agencies are looking to bypass device encryption during investigations. It is only a matter of time until things get taken to the next level, though this new update is not positive by any means.

Obtaining Fingerprints To Unlock Mobile Devices

In several investigations, the FBI has hit a brick wall, as they are dealing with encrypted information stored on iPhone devices. The only way to unlock this information is by having suspects collaborate, which is hardly ever the case. By using a fingerprint, access to the device and all of its information could be granted, but there is no law forcing suspects to do just that.

Unfortunately for privacy supporters, that situation has come to change in recent times. According to Forbes, there is a new form of search warrant available to law enforcement agencies. This document, drafted by the Department of Justice, would give permission to enter a suspect’s residence, and force anyone inside to give up their fingerprints. With these prints, law enforcement officials could then unlock any devices they may want to investigate.

Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Jennifer Lynch commented as follows:

“It’s not enough for a government to just say, ‘We have a warrant to search this house and therefore this person should unlock their phone.’ The government needs to say specifically what information they expect to find on the phone, how that relates to criminal activity and I would argue they need to set up a way to access only the information that is relevant to the investigation. The warrant has to be particular in how it describes the place to be searched and the thing to be seized and limited in scope. That’s why if a government suspects criminal activity to be happening on a property and there are 50 apartments in that property, they have to specify which apartment and why and what they expect to find there.”

Although it remains unclear if these search warrants are being used already, the sheer thought sets a very dangerous precedent. Bypassing the security of mobile devices needs to be done through legal means, but this seems to be taking things a bit too far. All of this is a direct result of the 2014 court ruling that police can demand fingerprints, but not passcodes, to unlock any mobile device.




This new warrant seems to blur the lines between the two, as either passcodes or fingerprints can be used to access whatever information is safely stored on the device itself. To be more precise, law enforcement will legally be able to obtain what they want, whenever they want, which is not a favorable course of action.

Biometric information, including fingerprints and palm vein scans, are not protected by the Fifth Amendment in the US. Since biometrics do not seem to reveal anything about what the particular person knows, they are not labeled as self-incriminating testimonies. Whether or not that situation will change, remains anybody’s guess for now.

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