Know Your Rights
Face ID and Touch ID are not your friends when it comes to your phone and law enforcement. Recently, in a search warrant that gave law enforcement access to President Trump’s fixer Michael Cohen, federal authorities requested access to Mr. Cohen’s phone and other devices by “use of the fingerprints of the user . . . or by holding the device in front of the user’s face.” The police wanted to obtain access to Mr. Cohen’s data by forcing Mr. Cohen to place his finger on his iPhone’s fingerprint scanner or by forcing Mr. Cohen to look into his iPhone camera so that the Face ID would unlock the phone. The police requested access to Mr. Cohen’s phone in this way because they did not know his passwords.
The police cannot use a search warrant to force you to provide law enforcement your passcode, PIN, or password because they are protected by your Fifth-amendment right against self-incrimination. Essentially, your passwords are material you know, while Face ID, Touch ID, and other biometric data are information you have to protect your phone privacy. It is not a violation of your right against self-incrimination for police to force you to turn over information you have that may help their case against you. Thus, it is crucial to protect yourself. Here are several ways that you can.
Disable Biometrics For a Quick Second
While you may not want to disable biometrics on your iPhone entirely, you should temporarily disable them before speaking to the police at a traffic stop or in another situation. On an iPhone 8 or newer, it is easy to do. Simply hold down either the volume up or down button at the same time you hold down the power button. After about a second, your iPhone will require you to use your passcode to unlock it. In an instant, you are protected from an officer using your finger or face to unlock your phone.
Use Find My iPhone to Block Access
If law enforcement ever gets their hands on your iPhone and you are unsure if you quickly disabled biometrics, you can lock your phone with Find My iPhone. You can do this by putting your iPhone in “lost mode.” Do this by signing onto iCloud and going to the “find devices” page. Click on the device you would like to lock. A box will pop up with your device; inside it, you should see “Lost Mode.” Simply click “Lost Mode” and follow the instructions to protect your privacy and prevent unauthorized entry by law enforcement.
Block Alerts on Your Lock Screen
If you block alerts on your iPhone, law enforcement will not be able to read your notifications. To protect your device, go into your settings and find notifications. In notifications, you will see a setting called “show previews.” You want to select “when unlocked” or “never.”
Use a Stronger Passcode
Even though law enforcement cannot make you give them your passcode or password, you should not want to make it easy for anyone to guess. The longer your passcode is, the harder it is to guess. The police have a 1 in 10,000 chance of guessing your passcode if you use a 4-digit code. If you use a 6-digit code, their odds fall to 1 in a million. If you use an even longer code, their odds fall even lower.
In conclusion, safeguarding your iPhone from unauthorized police access requires proactive steps. Temporarily disabling biometrics, using Find My iPhone to lock your device remotely, blocking lock screen alerts, using a strong passcode, and knowing your rights are all critical measures to protect your privacy. These precautions allow you to safeguard your personal information and protect your Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Stay vigilant and take steps to ensure your iPhone remains secure from unauthorized access by law enforcement or any other party.
Finding an Attorney
If you are worried that the police may have violated your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination or have been served with a search warrant. Consider talking to a qualified, experienced criminal defense attorney at Vic Carmody Jr., P.A. Over the years, we have helped numerous people charged with a crime by achieving favorable legal outcomes. Being accused of a crime is never a pleasant experience, but many potential defense strategies can be used to defend and reduce the charges against an offender. Call or contact us today for your free consultation to learn more.
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