Norway to Force Accused Criminal to Unlock His Phone via Fingerprint

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Norwegian police will force a 27-year-old man accused of drug possession to unlock his mobile phone via fingerprint, according to local website Bergensavisen [Google Translate]. The police believe the confiscated smartphone may contain evidence about where he obtained the illegal substance.


The man, who reportedly admitted he was culpable, has refused to unlock his phone for police since being charged, but the Nordhordland District Court's recent verdict allows Norwegian police to force the accused's thumb on to his fingerprint-secured phone. Local police will also analyze his phone call and data history.

The brand of the phone is not disclosed in the report, but if it is an iPhone, it is not clear if Norwegian police are aware that Touch ID requires a passcode as supplemental verification after 48 hours of disuse, a restart, or three failed fingerprint entry attempts. The accused was arrested on January 25, so it may be impossible for authorities to unlock an iPhone with Touch ID without taking additional measures.

In the U.S., a Virginia court ruled that fingerprints, unlike passwords and passcodes, are not protected by the Fifth Amendment. In his ruling, Judge Steven C. Frucci opined that "giving police a fingerprint is akin to providing a DNA or handwriting sample or an actual key," which is permitted under federal law.

Correction: The source article does not explicitly state that the device in question is an iPhone, and this article has been updated to reflect that.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Article Link: Norway to Force Accused Criminal to Unlock His Phone via Fingerprint
 

Corrode

macrumors 6502a
Dec 26, 2008
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Surely they've missed the Touch ID window and will require a password now. It will be interesting to see if, in the future, they are able to enforce this with a quicker turnaround.

Tech-saavy criminals will also just start turning off their phone if they know an arrest is imminent.
 
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err404

macrumors 68030
Mar 4, 2007
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It's a simple case with a small time offense to establish a legal precedent. I doubt they even care about the content of this particular phone.
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If a judge OK's it what's the problem? Why would a phone be any different then a locked box if a warrant is being executed.
Because you are forcing the accused to participate in the collection of evidence. This could be more analogous to forcing a person to reveal the combination of a pad lock.
 

oneMadRssn

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Sep 8, 2011
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It remains unclear if Norwegian police are aware that Touch ID requires a passcode as supplemental verification after 48 hours of disuse, a restart, or three failed fingerprint entry attempts. The accused was arrested on January 25, so it may be impossible for authorities to unlock his iPhone with Touch ID without taking additional measures.
I hope Apple lets users adjust this time limit to require passcode in the future. Some people who are not concerned with the security this might prefer the time limit to be longer, say 1 week. Other people more concerned with security might prefer this limit to be shorter, say 6 hours.
 

sim667

macrumors 65816
Dec 7, 2010
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I hope Apple lets users adjust this time limit to require passcode in the future. Some people who are not concerned with the security this might prefer the time limit to be longer, say 1 week. Other people more concerned with security might prefer this limit to be shorter, say 6 hours.
I'd want 1-2 hours to be honest.
 

miknos

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Mar 14, 2008
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Doubt the norwegian government is interested in the contents of the phone. Probably they have plenty of evidence from other sources.

And what if they're using Wickr or Telegram. Both have encrypted content and timer, so even if they forced him to unlock the phone, they'll have to go thru another encryption. And in that case won't find anything.


It's a political move. Let's screw everybody's privacy so we can catch the rapists and kidnappers.

And the 48h is too much. Would be nice if we could adjust to less.
 

Amazing Iceman

macrumors 68040
Nov 8, 2008
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... and an update. He needs that update.:D
Third-Party TouchID sensor and an iOS update:
Will this cause the Police to get into a a Catch-53 situation? :D
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That would be destroying evidence.
Then, how about giving iCloud Delete a recovery window, let's say 72 hours before the data of the phone is completely gone from iCloud?
 
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KALLT

macrumors 603
Sep 23, 2008
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Because you are forcing the accused to participate in the collection of evidence. This could be more analogous to forcing a person to reveal the combination of a pad lock.
Not exactly. Touch ID sits in between asking the person to incriminate themselves by handing over hidden evidence or saying something, and forcing the person to submit evidence that is on their body. A forcing to do or say something versus a taking something from them. Authorities may simply confiscate a key and use it to unlock something, so analogously they could also force the person to use their thumb to unlock the device, just as they could take their key and enter their house to collect evidence. There is no absolute rule anywhere that an accused can never be forced to do anything against their will if it serves the investigation and there is something like probable cause. The question is simply when is it allowed to rummage through someone’s phone. I would say that it should be at least as difficult as entering someone’s home.
 

Amazing Iceman

macrumors 68040
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Not exactly. Touch ID sits in between asking the person to incriminate themselves by handing over hidden evidence or saying something, and forcing the person to submit evidence that is on their body. A forcing to do something versus a taking something from them. Authorities may simply confiscate a key and use it to unlock something, so analogously they could also force the person to use their thumb to unlock the device. There is no absolute rule anywhere that an accused can never be forced to do anything against their will if it serves the investigation and there is something like probable cause.
If he/she does not cooperate, confiscate the finger!
 
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0007776

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Not exactly. Touch ID sits in between asking the person to incriminate themselves by handing over hidden evidence or saying something, and forcing the person to submit evidence that is on their body. A forcing to do or say something versus a taking something from them. Authorities may simply confiscate a key and use it to unlock something, so analogously they could also force the person to use their thumb to unlock the device, just as they could take their key and enter their house to collect evidence. There is no absolute rule anywhere that an accused can never be forced to do anything against their will if it serves the investigation and there is something like probable cause. The question is simply when is it allowed to rummage through someone’s phone. I would say that it should be at least as difficult as entering someone’s home.
I don't know about Norwegian law, but in the US at least it is legal to force them to be fingerprinted and also submit to a dna test. So if those are allowed I don't see why forcing them to put their finger on the home button of the phone to try to unlock it. Ultimately that isn't too likely to be successful unless the criminal is really dumb, if you are going to keep evidence of crimes on your phone you might want to use a finger other than your thumb, so you can pretend to forget which finger you used and they'll likely use up the three attempts before getting to the correct finger.
 
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Anonymous Freak

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Dec 12, 2002
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Surely they've missed the Touch ID window and will require a password now. It will be interesting to see if, in the future, they are able to enforce this with a quicker turnaround.

Tech-saavy criminals will also just start turning off their phone if they know an arrest is imminent.
Or you can choose to provide the "wrong" finger, or purposefully misplace your finger on the sensor five times. If you get TouchID wrong five times, it will insist on using the PIN instead. If you have a serious fear of being forced to unlock your phone, don't register either thumb or index finger; only register different fingers. Yes, less convenient to unlock, but if someone's forcing you to unlock it, they're almost certain to only try your thumbs and/or index fingers.
 

Nunyabinez

macrumors 68000
Apr 27, 2010
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As was pointed out in the article, it has already been established that in the U.S. a person can be compelled to unlock an iPhone with their finger but they can't be compelled to enter or disclose the pass code. This ruling is in keeping with current precedence in the U.S. and should come as no surprise.
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Or you can choose to provide the "wrong" finger, or purposefully misplace your finger on the sensor five times. If you get TouchID wrong five times, it will insist on using the PIN instead. If you have a serious fear of being forced to unlock your phone, don't register either thumb or index finger; only register different fingers. Yes, less convenient to unlock, but if someone's forcing you to unlock it, they're almost certain to only try your thumbs and/or index fingers.
Some people have reported success using their nose with touch ID. No, seriously.
 
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