How to Discreetly Disable Touch ID and Face ID on an iPhone

Discussion in 'Guides, How Tos and Reviews' started by MacRumors, Sep 22, 2017.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    There's an Emergency SOS feature built into iOS 11 that has hidden functionality -- it automatically disables Touch ID and makes it so your passcode has to be entered to unlock your iPhone.

    Because it essentially shuts down the biometrics on your device, you can't be compelled by a police officer or malicious person to unlock your iPhone with a fingerprint, nor can your fingerprint be used to get into your device should you be unconscious after an emergency. On iPhone X, this also applies to Face ID.

    Emergency SOS is enabled by default, and there's only one step to activate it: Press on the sleep/wake (Side) button of your iPhone five times in rapid succession. On the iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus, instead of pressing the Side button five times rapidly, you hold down the Side button and one of the volume buttons at the same time. It's essentially a quick squeeze on either side of the device.


    These gestures initiates a screen that gives you the option to power the iPhone off, make a call to emergency services, or access your Medical ID.

    Though not expressly stated, once your iPhone is in this emergency state, Touch ID is disabled. You will, however, have to press the cancel button to get back to the Home screen, so it's not an entirely secretive process.

    If you're using Emergency SOS to disable the lock screen and don't want to set the feature up to automatically call 911 when the sleep/wake button is pressed, make sure to disable Auto Call in the Settings app. Here's how:
    1. Open the Settings app.
    2. Scroll down to Emergency SOS.
    3. Disable Auto Call.
    With Auto Call disabled, pressing sleep/wake will bring up the aforementioned screen with the option to slide to make the emergency call. With Auto Call enabled, emergency services are called automatically when the sleep/wake button is pressed five times, following a five second countdown timer.

    It's best to leave Auto Call on if you want to be able to get in touch with emergency services immediately should you be in danger.

    While this feature was likely built to keep your iPhone secure in a situation where you might be incapacitated, it can also prevent authority figures from forcing you to unlock your device.

    This is notable because there have been legal rulings where a defendant has been compelled to provide a fingerprint, but not a passcode. Most people will never need to disable Touch ID, but it's worth knowing the option is there should there be a situation where it is necessary.

    Article Link: How to Discreetly Disable Touch ID and Face ID on an iPhone
  2. -Ryan- macrumors 68000

    Jan 28, 2009
    Useful feature. Hopefully I'll never have to use it, but good to know it's there.
  3. JetTester macrumors member

    Feb 12, 2014
    And to turn it back on, hold it over your head tilted at a 47 degree angle, hop 3 times, and say "Hey Siri, who is John Galt?", then boom, you're back in business.
  4. Relentless Power macrumors Penryn

    Relentless Power

    Jul 12, 2016
    I agree. Under stress, someone may not know how to utilize this feature or simply forget it. I would practice it just so the user has an understanding of how it works and access it if ever needed.
  5. E3BK macrumors 68030


    Mar 15, 2008
    You just need to enter your pass code to unlock and biometrics is automatically back on. No need to sarcastically scroll through settings to enable it.
  6. now i see it macrumors 68030

    Jan 2, 2002
    Always entering a passcode can be inconvenient (when Touch ID is & Face ID is permanently disabled in SETTINGS). But permanently disabling biometric authentication solves a lot of security problems.

    Touch ID (and Face ID) is a marginalized convenience. If you want the best security, don't use it.
  7. MrTemple macrumors regular

    Jun 11, 2013
    Canadian Pacific North Wilderness
    So edgy. You must be the life of the lan party.
  8. Bigsk8r macrumors 6502


    Nov 28, 2011
    Austin, Texas
    Just tried it out. Although I didn't wait for the emergency service call to go thru, I like that the 5 quick pushes got to that screen right away. In 2 seconds, you can completely put the phone in a state where you can't be legally compelled to open it.

    Although I don't ever see the need for this option, I can see where lawyers, doctors, and potentially a few other professions would have a completely legal, privacy based reason to want to ensure that confidential client "evidence" could not be acquired from them without thorough due process involving a judge.
  9. KWNJr macrumors newbie

    Sep 22, 2017
    Note: this does not seem to be available for iPads without celluar feature.
  10. SoN1NjA macrumors 68000


    Feb 3, 2016
    the pool
    I do not feel comfortable disabling Auto Call, if I'm in a serious emergency I want to be able to ring 911 as soon as possible
  11. OS X Dude macrumors 6502a

    OS X Dude

    Jun 30, 2007
    I thought Side + Volume Up captured a screenshot on the X? Unless that’s Side + Volume Down?
  12. mindsaspire macrumors member

    Jun 21, 2013
    Yes, a nice feature hope to never have to use. Maybe a small detail, but I noticed that the message shown is "Touch ID does not recognize your fingerprint", which also provides a little more protection since it doesn't indicate that you disabled Touch ID or even own the phone necessarily.
  13. JRoDDz macrumors 68000


    Jul 2, 2009
    Plausible deniability.
  14. dwhittington macrumors regular


    Mar 20, 2007
    Houston, TX
    Maybe there should be a facial gesture to invoke Emergency SOS on iPhone X. 5 quick winks of the eye? That's it!

    (think google glass)
  15. davidoff86 macrumors newbie


    Jun 30, 2015
    Jesus - just tried this & my phone started making what can only be described as a panic alarm sound !!
  16. JRoDDz macrumors 68000


    Jul 2, 2009
    Turn off "Auto Call"
  17. shamus99 macrumors regular

    Dec 20, 2014
    If you are unconscious, how do you hit the button five times.

    People... enough of this crazy paranoid stuff. Unless you are a murderer, kiddie molester or big time drug dealer the police don’t really care about your phone. If a cop gets in your phone illegally, it is thrown out in court.

    And for Gods sake, if you are being robbed, give them the damn phone. Disable it later or track it with the police. They can’t do anything without your icloud passcode.
  18. allanfries macrumors 6502a


    Jun 18, 2013
    All you have to do is restart or turn off the device. And the result is the same and easier. o_O
  19. mijail, Sep 23, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2017

    mijail macrumors 6502a

    Oct 31, 2010
    Yeah, because we all know that the police is always professional and lawful (and that laws are always and unequivocally fair and humane); and that when the police do something wrong (which never happens anyway, right?) they get promptly and unequivocally punished, bringing back balance to the world.

    Also, you forgot to say "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear".

    You seem to use an interesting definition of "discreetly".
  20. shamus99 macrumors regular

    Dec 20, 2014
    What are you hiding in your phone?
  21. mijail macrumors 6502a

    Oct 31, 2010
    Why do you want to know?
    And why should I depend on your idea of what is acceptable or not?
  22. C DM macrumors Sandy Bridge

    Oct 17, 2011
  23. Hotshoe macrumors newbie


    Oct 28, 2017
    Thanks. Good tip. Also, I was playing around and discovered if you lock your phone and then open Medical ID, you’ll be required to enter PIN to re-enable Touch ID and sign-in.
  24. gluckett macrumors regular

    Sep 23, 2009
    I would say so - just slide to power off instead of entering SOS mode. You must enter the passcode when powering back up, so I consider that easier than going and disabling your SOS auto-call which you may actually need at some point...
  25. NT1440 macrumors G4


    May 18, 2008
    So much faith in a system that refuses to allow DNA tests for death row inmates 20+ years down the road....

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