Cops and the iPhone X’s Facial Recognition Technology
How the police can use Apple's new feature against you
Apple threw its annual parade of new products yesterday from inside of the new Steve Jobs Theatre in Cupertino, California, previewing the company’s fall line-up. The biggest announcement was the much-anticipated iPhone X—a $1,000 device with extra screen space, no home button and facial-recognition technology. That final feature has caused concerns about privacy.
Some critics have been vocal about their distrust of the technology, and they should be! It does seem eerie and new world order-ish. But perhaps there are some real life, practical concerns
Apple has long been one of the securest smartphone operating systems on the market. Their newest iOS 11 operating system has been applauded by privacy and security experts. And as you may remember, Apple refused to assist the government when they needed access to the iPhones of the individuals responsible for the terrorist attack in San Bernardino.
That’s all great.
But our government, on the other hand, is becoming more and more authoritarian by the day, and it would be unwise to put anything past them, especially our nation’s law enforcement.
Cops do illegal shit all the time. Just yesterday we wrote about how crimes committed by cops are much more frequent than previously thought. And just yesterday the Department of Justice under Jeff Sessions announced that it wouldn’t be pursuing federal charges against the six Baltimore police officers who killed Freddy Gray. Also in Baltimore, there have numerous recent incidents of cops being dumbasses by filming themselves planting drugs. In Chicago, police ran a “black site” where they violated the rights of numerous people who were detained. And police have been targeting protesters at alarming rates.
So the idea of a cop being able to, say, hold a phone up to someone’s face who they have in custody and who is under investigation in order to gain access to the bulk of their communications and digital data, is mildly terrifying. Police tend to operate with the mind frame that it’s a lot easier to ask for forgiveness than it is for permission.
Could they legally do that? Well, it’s tricky. The Supreme Court ruled in Riley v. California that to go through someone’s device they would need a warrant. However, the ACLU is singing a different tune.
“Under the current doctrine, it’s most likely not going to be a 5th amendment problem for police to (use your face to unlock your iPhone),” Brett Kauffman, a staff attorney for the ACLU told the Daily Beast. Is it likely stuff like that will happen often? Probably not. But it’s certainly a possibility.
“I would hesitate to say it’s legal, but it wouldn’t violate your self-incrimination right under the current doctrine,” Kauffman added.
Essentially what that all means is that sure, they could probably use your face to collect information from your phone. Would that information be admissible in court? Probably not. But would police be able to use that information to build a case against you ? Yup. Once they have the knowledge, they have the power.
Some of the other concerns raised about Apple’s new technology is the potential sharing of biometric data. All that data will only be stored on your phone in what they are calling a Secured Enclave. This means that neither your operating system nor any of the apps on your phone would be able to access that data.
Facial recognition technology is the way of the future, whether we like it or not. The government has already been using this technology and is getting very good at it. They can already use it to identify mask-wearing protesters. Also police are already working on real-time facial technology from their body cams.
If you don’t want to risk any of this but still want the iPhone X, don’t do sketchy shit on your phone. Burners are cheap, lawyers are not.