Discussions on civil rights related digital property and electronic devices are deep and nuanced after all, it is hard to define what property and what privacy invade when talking about bits and bytes in a piece of silence, and not personal objects stored in a safe, for example. Recently, a US court has reached a very important consensus on the matter.
A ruling published last October 10 by the Northern California District Court denied investigators of a case a warrant to unlock devices found on a suspect's property. According to the ruling, such a warrant would “disrespect the Fourth and Fifth Amendments” of the US Constitution, which protect citizens against arbitrary search and seizure and abuses of state authority, respectively.
The investigation in question concerns an alleged attempted blackmail, where a suspect threatened to publish an "embarrassing" video of the victim if payment of a certain amount was not made. The investigators then applied for a warrant authorizing them to compel the suspect to unlock any biometrically protected device such as fingerprints, face reading or iris.
Judge Kanis Westmore denied the request, considering it too broad if the investigators had requested access to a specific device such as a smartphone or computer, the decision could be different. In addition, Westmore decided that the government and the police cannot use a user's biometric information to force the unlocking of a device, as this would go against the principle that it releases citizens from producing evidence against themselves.
The important decision is because it puts biometric unlockings under the same password protection sphere. As we have commented here in previous cases, US law is forcing law enforcement officials to oblige a citizen to say their password (either from a device or an account) as this is an intellectual property and the state cannot force access to thought. of the individual. The terrain was less clear with respect to biometric information, such as fingerprints or face shape, as these are physical elements that exist in the real world now, so the decision can set a pattern for this type of block.
The police, of course, can obtain the information necessary for the investigation by other means, either by specifying the devices they want to investigate or by requesting access to the suspect Apple, Google, or Facebook account information, say. Still, the reminder is that even in the age of biometric unlocks, you still have rights regarding your privacy.