Judge Rules Against Forced Fingerprinting

A federal judge in Chicago has ruled against a government request which would require forced fingerprinting of private citizens in order to open a secure, personal phone or tablet.

The case revolved around the issues of modern smartphone encryption against both the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure, and also the Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.

In the ruling, the judge stated that while fingerprints in and of themselves are not protected, the government’s method of obtaining the fingerprints would violate the Fourth and Fifth amendments. The government’s request was given as part of a search warrant related to a child pornography ring. The court ruled that the government could seize devices, but that it could not compel people physically present at the time of seizure to provide their fingerprints “onto the Touch ID sensor of any Apple iPhone, iPad, or other Apple brand device in order to gain access to the contents of any such device.”

You can read more about the ruling in the Ars Technica web site at: https://goo.gl/KY9zrB.

The article on the Ars Technica web site goes into some detail describing the reactions of several lawyers about this case, most of whom largely agreed with the judge’s ruling. The ruling will not set a legal precedent so other judges hearing other cases are not required to rule the same way. However, the latest ruling can be used as evidence of how other courts have ruled and a different judge, hearing a different case, will be discouraged from making an opposite decision as the opposing decision most likely can be appealed and possibly overturned.

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