Apple has implemented a new feature in iOS 11 that allows users to quickly call emergency services when rapidly pressing the sleep/wake button five times in a row. Intended or not, this feature also disables Touch ID and requires the user to enter his passcode to gain access to the phone again, something privacy enthusiasts will see as a great feature.
When Touch ID is enabled on the device, pressing the sleep/wake button five times will bring up a new screen with three different options: slide to power off, show the medical ID card, or call emergency services. At that point, Touch ID is completely disabled and if the user or anyone else wants to unlock the device again, the passcode will have to be entered.
On previous software versions, the only way to disable Touch ID was to either reboot the device, enter wrong fingerprints five times, wait a few days for Touch ID to ask to enter passcode again, or, of course, to disable Touch ID entirely in the phone’s settings.
The legal grey area in which Touch ID has been evolving in since its inception is somewhat of a head scratcher when it comes to privacy and what the police can legally ask you to do. It seems that these days, the police can force you to unlock your phone using your fingerprint, but they legally can’t force you to do that when using a passcode.
This new feature, while maybe not intended for that specific purpose, can be a quick and easy way to disable Touch ID and make sure the police or some law enforcement entity can’t force you to use your fingerprint to unlock your phone. Depending on where you live, the legal mileage of fingerprint sensors and passcode in general may vary greatly.