Another Judge Orders Suspect to Unlock iPhone With Touch ID

Touch ID on iPhone

Fingerprint technology is becoming a go-to source for security, both for manufacturers and consumers, and also a main point of contention in legal cases.

As Ars Technica reports, a man based out of Texas, and charged with particularly heinous crimes, was ordered in secret to unlock their iPhone using Touch ID to access the information therein. This particular detail was discovered through court documents that were recently unsealed:

“A Dallas, Texas man accused of prostituting underage girls was secretly ordered by a federal judge to unlock his iPhone using his fingerprint, according to federal court documents that are now unsealed.”

In this particular case, though, it appears that the specific ruling regarding Touch ID doesn’t really matter, as it had been more than 48 hours since the iPhone had last been unlocked — which means Touch ID couldn’t be used to unlock it anyway, as a password was needed.

Still, the implication here is similar to another case dating back to May of this year, where another federal judge ruled that a suspect could be compelled to use Touch ID to unlock their device. While this doesn’t mean that a precedent has been set on a national level just yet, as a case hasn’t been brought ahead of the United States Supreme Court, it does seem that lower courts are going down the route of compelling suspects to use Touch ID/fingerprints to access locked devices.

Whether or not this will stay the case remains to be seen. Legal experts have been going back-and-forth regarding passwords, and the Fifth Amendment, for quite some time, and fingerprints are a new area of argument. The Fifth Amendment outlines that a person cannot be compelled to be a witness against himself in a criminal case. Passwords are typically seen as a means to do this — while a fingerprint is seen, to many, as a piece of physical evidence, which is why it’s on shaky ground for the time being.

It’s another interesting ruling, to be sure.

[via Ars Technica]