Cops Can’t Force People to Unlock Their Phones With Biometrics, Court Rules

A federal judge in California has ruled that law enforcement can’t compel a suspect to unlock their phone with a fingerprint or face recognition. Combined with a previous court ruling that held police cannot force a suspect to tell them their password, we’re getting some clarity on the future of search and seizure in the United States.

On Friday, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruledthat requiring a suspect to unlock a device using their biometric data like face identification or an iris scan would be a violation of their Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination. “If a person cannot be compelled to provide a passcode because it is a testimonial communication, a person cannot be compelled to provide one’s finger, thumb, iris, face, or other biometric feature to unlock that same device,” Judge Kandis Westmore wrote in her opinion.