Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald E. Bush denied law enforcement’s request to demand the owner of a Google pixel to unlock her device with a fingerprint to allow for a forensic search.
The Idaho based case involves a suspect accused of possession of child pornography and an encrypted Google Pixel. The device was located at a property of interest, but was locked and unable to be searched. When law enforcement requested the owner of the device use their fingerprint to unencrypt its contents, the judge ruled that a search warrant lacks the authority to unlock devices with fingerprints, face recognition, or iris scanning.
Judge Bush cited the Fifth Amendment when making his decision, stating, “A fingerprint is testimonial information that an individual willingly gives to the government and can be withheld to protect the person from self-incrimination.” Demanding an individual to unlock a phone with biometric data would also breach the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches. A breach of the Fifth Amendment would “inherently mean the search was unreasonable” stated Bush.
A similar ruling was made months prior when Judge Kandis Westmore in California ruled in favor of biometric protection for unreasonable searches by law enforcement.
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Digital Forensics/Cybersecurity/Information Technology