This is a decision that should delight defenders of privacy in the United States. A California judge has just ruled that the US government could not force anyone (even with a warrant) to unlock a mobile phone with his biometric data (face, iris, fingerprints).
As recalled by Forbes, who relayed the decision first, a previous decision allowed the police to force unlocking by such means. And this, despite the fact that federal authorities were not allowed to force a suspect to disclose his authentication code to enter the smartphone.
In the case just reviewed, a person was blackmailed in the video on Facebook. With several suspects in mind, the police had asked for a warrant to search their property. And especially the phones they intended to unlock with all the biometric means at their disposal, including facial recognition, fingerprint or iris suspects.
Contrary to the American Constitution
A practice deemed illegal by the judge. The latter considered that the authentication code and biometric data were both ways to unlock the phone and therefore legally to "testimony" from suspects. But the 5e amendment of the US Constitution guarantees the possibility to any citizen not to have to testify against himself.
Since a "person can not be obliged to provide an authentication code because it is a testimonial communication, it can not be obliged to provide his finger, his thumb, his iris, his face or any other biometric feature to unlock the same device, "says the judge.
Although it may still be overturned in another court, this decision is a major victory for privacy advocates over US authorities. At the end of June, the Supreme Court was already asserting the Americans' right to preserve the confidentiality of their digital information against the government. The Californian judge relies heavily on this decision.
For several years, the ideological battle between the defenders of privacy on one side and those of security is raging in the United States. The first defending the encryption of digital data intrusions of the US government.
The conflict has even moved on the legal ground three years ago between Apple and FBI in the wake of the killing of San Bernardino. US federal police ordered the builder to unlock the phone of one of the terrorists. Apple then refused the injunction, citing concerns over privacy.