California’s top cops seem to have obtained a questionable warrant request to enter a residence and force anyone inside to use biometric information to open their fingerprint-locked iPhones purely on the assumption they’ll learn more after they access the phones, Forbes reported this morning.
Deemed as “an unprecedented attempt to bypass the security of Apple’s iPhones,” Forbes found a court filing in which the Department of Justice sought to search a Lancaster, California, property.
The filing, dated May 9, 2016, explicitly seeks authorization to:
Depress the fingerprints and thumbprints of every person who is located at the SUBJECT PREMISES during the execution of the search and who is reasonably believed by law enforcement to be the user of a fingerprint sensor-enabled device that is located at the SUBJECT PREMISES and falls within the scope of the warrant.
An anonymous person at the premises confirmed that the warrant has been served.
The warrant basically gives the police right to seize any confidential information from a suspect’s device, including “passwords, encryption keys and other access devices that may be necessary to access the device”.
“They want the ability to get a warrant on the assumption that they will learn more after they have a warrant,” cautioned legal expert Marina Medvin of Medvin Law.
Jennifer Lynch, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, warns that the government must specify what information it is expected to find on a mobile device before compelling the owner to unlock it with their fingerprint.
The government needs to say specifically what information they expect to find on the phone, how that relates to criminal activity and I would argue they need to set up a way to access only the information that is relevant to the investigation.
The reason I’m so concerned about this is that it’s so broad in scope and the government is relying on these outdated cases to give it access to this amazing amount of information.
The part the government is ignoring here is the vast amount of data that’s on the phone. If this kind of thing became law then there would be nothing to prevent… a search of every phone at a certain location.
More worryingly, the filing along with related court documents in this case were not available to the public before. Wired recently reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been considering “legal and technical options“ regarding unlocking an iPhone in a case similar to the San Bernardino shooting.
Apple stepped up security in iOS 10 to further prevent hacking of locked devices. It’s also instituted an official bug bounty program to strengthen the security of its products.