The first documented case of a law enforcement agency forcing a suspect to unlock their iPhone X using Face ID has been unearthed by Forbes. The incident occurred on August 10 when the FBI searched the house of Grant Michalski in Columbus, Ohio for possessing child pornography.
The feds had a search warrant with them and used it to ask the suspect to put their face in front of their iPhone X to unlock it. Post this, the feds collected all data from the device which they deemed necessary for their investigation.
When David Knight, special agent with the FBI, obtained Michalski’s cell and required the suspect to place his face in front of the device, instantly opening it, there were various items of interest inside, according to an affidavit for a search warrant of that iPhone X.
However, there’s a catch here though. The FBI could not pull data from the device using its forensic kit. This is because of the new USB Restricted Mode which Apple debuted with iOS 11.4. It requires users to enter the passcode of their device if it has not been used for over an hour. The officer did not keep the device unlocked for the necessary amount of time and had to manually search for data for investigation purposes on it.
Had the iPhone X required a passcode to be unlocked, the FBI would have been helpless since it is protected by the amendment and a person cannot be forced to share their passcode as it leads to self-incrimination.
As per the lawyer of the accused, the FBI tried to extract more data from the iPhone X in question using Cellebrite tools but was unsuccessful despite Face ID unlocking the device.
“Consequently, at this moment, they’ve not found any contraband on the cellphone,” Nolder said over email. “That’s a Pyrrhic victory as there was contraband found on other devices but there would be no need to challenge the warrant’s facial recognition feature as my client was not harmed by its use.”
With Apple switching to Face ID entirely on its iPhone lineup this year, it is probably time for the lawmakers to have a look at the fifth amendment and make necessary changes to it.