- During an investigation into a child pornography suspect, FBI agents forced the suspect to unlock his iPhone X using his face.
- This is the first time Face ID (or facial recognition in general) has been used in this fashion.
- As of right now, forced use of Face ID and fingerprints can be utilized to unlock smartphones, but not passcodes.
According to ZDNet, FBI agents recently forced a suspect accused of possessing child pornography to unlock his iPhone X using Apple’s proprietary facial recognition technology Face ID. This is a first for the biometric security option.
Previously, we’ve seen authorities force suspects (or even corpses) to unlock smartphones using fingerprints, but this is the first known time facial recognition has come into play.
The FBI agents used a search warrant to physically search the 28-year-old suspect, which resulted in the agents finding his iPhone X. The agents then forced the suspect to unlock the device using his face.
The raid of the iPhone resulted in proof that the suspect had communicated with a person looking to have sex with minors. This Kik conversation was, unbeknownst to the suspect, actually had with an undercover agent. The iPhone raid also resulted in the discovery of pornographic images involving children.
The suspect was then arrested and charged for possession of child pornography.
United States law enforcement can force suspects to unlock their smartphones with a proper search warrant, but authorities are unable to force suspects to hand over passcodes. This means that although the officers, in this case, were able to find enough to arrest and charge the suspect, access to certain types of data on the iPhone is still inaccessible unless the suspect willingly gives the FBI his passcode(s).
The lawyer representing the accused said that authorities attempted to use Cellebrite to gain access to the suspect’s iPhone, but were unsuccessful. The lawyer was also critical of this practice, inferring that authorities have too much power in this regard due to vague legal language.