Virginia police can now force you to unlock your smartphone with your fingerprint

“A Virginia circuit court judge ruled this week that smartphone users can be compelled to give up their fingerprint, but not their passcodes, allowing police to search their devices,” Zack Whittaker reports for ZDNet.

“A fingerprint — used by a number of devices, like the latest iPhones, iPads, and Samsung Galaxy phones and tablets — does not fall within these protections, which Judge Steven C. Frucci likened it to handing over a DNA sample,” Whittaker reports. “There is a caveat, however. If a device is locked by both a fingerprint and a passcode, the passcode wins, meaning the device is protected.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Apple’s Touch ID may mean U.S. iPhone 5s users can’t ‘take the fifth’ – September 12, 2013
Apple changes the world again, propels biometrics into the mainstream with iPhone 5s’ Touch ID – September 12, 2013

97 Comments

    1. Even easier. Just hold the power button and the home button for 3-5 seconds. It will cause a reset of the device. After every restart/reset, the iPhone requires a passcode to unlock it. The fingerprint will not be enough.

      1. For the record … I am not doing anything illegal, nor can I remember the last time I was stopped by the Police for anything.

        That being said, the next time I get pulled over by a cop, that is exactly what I’m going to do. There should be plenty of time from being pulled over, until the cop is standing at the window to accomplish this.

  1. I suspect that won’t hold up on appeal. In the meantime, if you are worried about police activity and live in Virginia, I guess you have to consider disabling Touch ID.

    1. You have to set a passcode to use Touch ID. The article clearly says if the device has touch and passcode that the passcode wins. Will only be a problem for the droid world.

      1. I thought that at first, too, but the logic wasn’t there. I think they mean that if you need both to get in, it’s protected. If the Touch ID is enough, they’re in.

    1. Steven C. Frucci is a circuit court judge for the 2nd Judicial Circuit in Virginia. He was appointed to the court by (recently convicted) Governor Bob McDonnell in August 2013. His appointment will need to be approved by the Virginia General Assembly when it reconvenes in early 2014.

      I suspect the good Judge is playing to the Republican-controlled Virginia General Assembly.

        1. Actually, you’re referring to the Dixiectats (states rights advocates cause black peoples) who were CONSERVATIVE (this is the operative word)) democrats in favor of Jim Crow, poll taxes, and white man supremacy (any of this sound familiar).

          This movement weakened what was once the Solid South and began a shift towards economic policies to weaken and delay civil rights reforms. This finally lead to Truman’s being challenged by Strom Thurmond (yeah, that guy) as the Dixiecrat party presidential nominee.

          As the world around them became more liberal (again. any of this sound familiar) the Dixiecrats became more aggressive in their oppression through subsequent Presidential civil rights progress, culminating in state troopers forcefully integrating Alabama.

          After this, the solid south became a voting bloc for CONSERVATIVE politicians (you know, Republicans).

          So the philosophy of the politician is their defining characteristic, not the political party.

          That stuff I did up there…history.

  2. Never take legal advice from a tech writer. What he’s talking about is after you’ve been arrested and charged, and with a search warrant. And what’s with that bozo in the comments section who’s yammering about Apple’s finger print ID being easily hacked? Does anybody have even one example to support that garbage?

    1. There was a proof-of-concept demonstration of taking a fingerprint and creating a latex version that could be used to unlock an iPhone with Touch ID. But I would not classify that as “hacking,” much less “easy hacking.”

      In practical terms, Touch ID appears to be a very secure method and far superior to the alternatives in terms of convenience.

    2. Yes, it was done with thousands of dollars of high-tech equipment after laboring a day and a half.

      But in a real world situation, before that amount of time passed, the owner would’ve gone to “Find My iPhone” and turned passcode lock on.

    3. A point missed by most people reading and commenting on that story:

      he admitted at the bottom of the article that he could definitely not have done it in the number attempts apple permits (by default). After those failed attempts on the vast majority of our phones he’d be required to use the password which also locks (by default) after a number of failed attempts

  3. Somebody on ZDNet had a great idea. They suggested an app that lets you unlock your phone with one of more fingers, but if you use a different finger it automatically wipes the phone.

    1. That could be ruled destruction of evidence and could be even worse of a crime than whatever they found. Your best best is to power down or restart the iPhone.

        1. Yesterday’s Southern Dems are today’s RepubliKKKans.
          BTW- Warren G Harding was a Klansman and a Republican, and very corrupt. But that goes without saying.
          Indiana had 3-4 Governors in a row- all Republicans and all Klansmen.

          Do your homework.

        1. And it’s Republicans who interpret the Constitution in such literal and absurd ways as to be almost laughable. For instance, the right to bear arms including fully automatic assault rifles…

          1. You’re a dumb ass. The Constitution was meant to be interpreted literally! Jeez. Where in the hell did you come from? North Korea? The 2nd Amendment says… and I quote from memory… “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”. The 2nd Amendment lists two things: A well regulated militia; the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Then it states that these shall not be infringed. How else should I interpret that? The way you must be thinking, that Constitution could also be a recipe for biscuits. It was meant to LIMIT GOVERNMENT, and the Bill of Rights was specifically meant to protect the states and the individual from the federal government. My guess is that you’re ready to lay down your rights because some judge or politician tells you to. That’s crazy. I will fight injustice with my last dying breath, and I will not give up freedoms. If you think that’s absurd and laughable, then I pity you.

          1. I’m not going to get into a back and forth partisan discussion. The bottom line is that the court is WRONG. I don’t give a damn who appointed the judges. Period. Go argue with someone who is interested in arguing with you. I’m not.

  4. I would just refuse to do it. Fsck ’em.

    And lol @ the writer throwing the Galaxy in there. Nobody uses Samesung’s crappy fingerprint scanner. This is all about Touch ID and they know it.

  5. The headline uses the word “force” What do they mean by force? They put a gun to your head? Beat the crap outta ya? Grab your hand and make your finger unlock it? The judge says “compelled.” What happens if you just refuse and quote the Fourth Amendment?

    freakin’ police state..Thanks, Dubya and Obola.

    1. I don’t know how accurate this is but the last comment from the original story may shed some light on this…

      The 11th Circuit in Atlanta has already decided (http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2012/02/23/court-fifth-amendment-protects-suspects-from-decrypting-computers/) that passwords can’t be forced from you by a warrant as they are protected under the 5th because they are contained inside your head, are not physical and therefore would be compelling you to testify against yourself. Finger prints are a physical thing and are covered under the 4th amendment and can be obtained using a search warrant, just like DNA or house keys.

      That said, it’s pretty clear the police can make a copy of your fingerprint, but that won’t unlock an iPhone.

      I’m waiting for an attorney to argue that making you put your finger on your phone is actually the same as making you speak a password, that it is forcing you to testify in a behavioral sense. I’m not lawyer, but can’t testimony be given non-verbally as well as verbally? Is putting your finger on your phone different from asking a person who communicates with sign language to sign their pass code?

  6. Good thing that Apple makes you enter a passcode every time the phone restarts and also after using the wrong finger 5 times (tip: don’t register your thumb/index as TouchID, then you can safely offer to scan your index/thumb when cops pull you over)

    Oh wait the article doesn’t mention any of these protections.. clearly it’s main message is uniquely to put down what yet another example of Apple’s superb execution (and consequently Apple Pay)

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