The government has been on a quest to gain access to our phones for a little while now. While the NSA has always been one to spy on us, the federal government hit a snag with the San Bernardino shooting. They wanted to unlock Sayeed Farouk’s phone, but due to Apple’s security measures, were unable to do so.
So it was that the fed asked Apple to create a backdoor into the iPhone, something Apple refused to do. This was smart, seeing as how they knew that once they give the government mouse some cheese, it would want some milk.
But now a story has come out from Forbes that should disturb you. Instead of trying to access your phone through codes, keys, and backdoors, they’re just brute forcing you to unlock it yourself, and hand your data over to them.
According to Forbes, the Department of Justice wanted a premises in Lancaster California searched. With it was a memorandum that read something very frightening.
“authorization to depress the fingerprints and thumbprints of every person who is located at the SUBJECT PREMISES during the execution of the search and who is reasonably believed by law enforcement to be the user of a fingerprint sensor-enabled device that is located at the SUBJECT PREMISES and falls within the scope of the warrant.”
This was signed off on by the U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, Eileen Decker, who also included…
“While the government does not know ahead of time the identity of every digital device or fingerprint (or indeed, every other piece of evidence) that it will find in the search, it has demonstrated probable cause that evidence may exist at the search location, and needs the ability to gain access to those devices and maintain that access to search them. For that reason, the warrant authorizes the seizure of ‘passwords, encryption keys, and other access devices that may be necessary to access the device,’”
This shocked the legal community, as well it should.
“They want the ability to get a warrant on the assumption that they will learn more after they have a warrant,” said Marina Medvin of Medvin Law. “Essentially, they are seeking to have the ability to convince people to comply by providing their fingerprints to law enforcement under the color of law – because of the fact that they already have a warrant. They want to leverage this warrant to induce compliance by people they decide are suspects later on. This would be an unbelievably audacious abuse of power if it were permitted.”
The warrant was not available to the public, sadly.
The scary part is, this has been deemed legal. According to the memorandum, obtaining this information falls within bounds because it takes the use of body data, not pass codes. They cited the Supreme Court case of Schmerber v. California, where in 1966 police drew blood against a suspect’s will, stating that the body does not fall under the auspices of self-incriminating evidence, and therefore, fair game.
And that’s just for the 5th. As for the 4th, if authorities have reasonable suspicion, then taking a fingerprint isn’t remotely against the law.
This should worry America as a whole. The breakdown is that the government wanted a premises searched, which can include personal data devices, and as a means to search the devices were able to force the access through the use of personal biometrics.