Apple’s ‘cop button’ won’t keep your iPhone safe from the police

“An upcoming feature in iOS 11 might let you disable Touch ID so your device can’t be unlocked with your fingerprint – but as it turns out, that might not be as useful as you think,” Abhimanyu Ghoshal writes for TNW.

“The new setting, found in a public beta of iOS 11, temporarily disables Touch ID and lets you tap the screen to dial 911 after you’ve hit the power button quickly five times,” Ghoshal writes. “That’s a lot easier than the other cumbersome method of disabling Touch ID, but it might not keep police and border control officers out of your phone.”

Ghoshal writes, “Last December, a Florida court order ordered a suspect, who was believed to have taken inappropriate photos of a woman without her consent, to hand over his passcode so that police could search his iPhone for incriminating images. The decision ran counter to a 2014 ruling from a Virginia court, which stated that suspects can be compelled to unlock their phones with a fingerprint, but not to reveal their PINs, as that might violate Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Two different judges, two different results. That’s not a uniform standard of justice.

We can’t wait to see how Apple deals with unlocking the next-gen OLED iPhone (whether there’s Touch ID present or if it’s replaced with 3D facial recognition).

Regardless, at the core of the issue is the U.S. Constitution:


No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Sometimes the law gets too cute. We shouldn’t leave common sense out of the equation. The process is the same thing. You’re getting access to someone’s most private information by forcing someone to give you the key. — Miami defense attorney David Oscar Markus, May 2016

Ultimately… the U.S. Supreme Court will likely have to weigh in on this issue.MacDailyNews, May 4, 2017

Florida man sentenced to 180 days in jail for not divulging his iPhone passcode – May 31, 2017
Florida judge orders reality TV actress to unlock Apple iPhone in ‘sextortion’ case – May 4, 2017
Miami sextortion case asks if a suspect can be forced to hand over Apple iPhone password – April 28, 2017
Feckless FBI unable to unlock iPhone, even with a ‘fingerprint unlock warrant’ – May 12, 2016
The Touch ID lock on your iPhone isn’t cop-proof – May 11, 2016
U.S. government wants your fingerprints to unlock your phone – May 1, 2016
Should you disable Touch ID for your own security? – May 9, 2016
U.S. government wants your fingerprints to unlock your phone – May 1, 2016
Virginia police can now force you to unlock your smartphone with your fingerprint – October 31, 2014
Apple’s Touch ID may mean U.S. iPhone 5s users can’t ‘take the fifth’ – September 12, 2013
Apple’s iPhone 5S with biometric identification: Big Brother’s dream? – September 11, 2013


  1. Again one of the main points of the issue is that up until this point there has been no mainstream technology nor device that is tamper proof.

    Hiding stuff behind a door? Tough break it down.
    Hiding stuff in a safe? Tough, crack it.
    Hiding stuff in a sovereign nation? Tough, disregard that and invade.

    Apple is close to changing that.

    Hiding stuff in an iPhone. Good, no one is going to get into it but you. Privacy and security at last.

  2. Inside the USA, If you’re a US citizens and you are arrested, keep in mind your Miranda Rights. “You have the right to remain SILENT.” No court has any ability to revoke that right, period. Not ever. Any court attempting to do so is WRONG.

  3. There’s some confusion over exactly how this is being implemented, over on Daring Fireball, Gruber explains it in more detail.

    You press the sleep/wake button five times in rapid succession and it displays a screen with buttons to power off the iPhone, bring up your Medical ID (if filled out) and make an emergency 911 call.

    Along with these options, there’s also a cancel button. If you hit the sleep/wake button five times and then hit cancel, it disables Touch ID and requires a passcode before Touch ID can be re-enabled.

    If you actually make an SOS phone call, iOS does not lock you out of using Touch ID. That is, if it’s an actual emergency, Apple doesn’t want to make it harder to unlock your phone.

    Therefore to keep the cops out, you need to press five times and cancel. The phone will then need a passcode to unlock it.

    Gruber also adds after the five presses, there is some haptic feedback and the display comes on and remains on until you either make an emergency call or press cancel. He says that a forthcoming change will allow you to tap the power button one more time to cancel the display, so the who process of defeating the touch ID can be done while the iPhone remains in your pocket.

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