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Friday, September 13, 2013

Innovation Fellow Pascal on Possible Police Misuse of iPhone Fingerprint ID

Brian Hayden Pascal, a research fellow with the Institute of Innovation Law, in the Sept. 12, 2013 "Digits" column of the Wall Street Journal.
Brian Pascal, Innovation Fellow

Brian Pascal, Innovation Fellow

Unlocking your iPhone with a fingerprint is convenient. But it could backfire if you end up in trouble with the law, warn some privacy experts.

Courts have given mixed messages about whether Americans are protected from being forced to divulge passwords or decrypt information for law enforcement officials. Civil liberties advocates argue defendants shouldn’t have to unlock their own computers for the cops. The logic: Under the Fifth Amendment, Police can’t force you to self-incriminate by testifying, or divulging something in your mind.

It’s unclear if that same protection applies if the password is your fingerprint.

It isn’t hard to imagine police also forcing a suspect to put his thumb on his iPhone to take a look inside, said Brian Hayden Pascal, a research fellow at the University of California Hastings Law School’s Institute for Innovation Law.

“This puts a new kind of stress on the moment of arrest,” Mr. Pascal said. “Suddenly what looks like it would just be a boring part of an arrest now suddenly has all this amazing potential.”

Read more about Apple's iPhone identification system from the Wall Street Journal here.

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