Florida appeals says you can be compelled to utter your phone's passphrase

A state appeals-court judge in Florida has broken with the precedent that the courts may not compel suspects to reveal the unlock codes for their devices as this would violate the Fifth Amendment's prohibition against forced self-incrimination.



Other courts had held that suspects could be ordered to unlock their phones with their fingerprints -- because that was conceptually similar to being forced to give a blood sample or handwriting sample -- but that the court couldn't order you to reveal self-incriminating information, including your passphrases. This contradiction was bound to come up against the perception that it was arbitrary to treat data protected by passphrases differently from data protected by biometrics, not least because the part of your fingerprint that unlocks your phone is the information encoded in its whorls.

The court seeks to compel an accused voyeur to unlock the phone he is said to have used in "upskirt photography."


The Florida court, in part, uses the whole fingerprint thing as a reason why this suspect should be compelled to provide his passcode.

“We are not inclined to believe that the Fifth Amendment should provide greater protection to individuals who passcode protect their iPhones with letter and number combinations than to individuals who use their fingerprint as the passcode,” the opinion continues. “Compelling an individual to place his finger on the iPhone would not be a protected act; it would be an exhibition of a physical characteristic, the forced production of physical evidence, not unlike being compelled to provide a blood sample or provide a handwriting exemplar.”

Court Rules That Police Can Force You To Tell Them Your Phone’s Passcode [Kate Cox/Consumerist]


(Image: ouchScreen projective capacitive, Mercury13, CC-BY-SA)