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Police Went to a Funeral Home to Unlock a Dead Man’s Phone With His Finger (US)
Police in Florida (US) went to a funeral home and managed to use the finger of its deceased owner in order to try and unlock his mobile phone as part of their investigation.
30-year old Linus Phillip was killed by a Police Officer based in Largo last month, after it was reported that he tried to speed away from Police before an Officer was able to search him.
Two Detectives later attended the funeral home where Phillips body was being kept and pressed the dead man’s finger against the fingerprint reader on the device in order to try and get access to the phone.
It is reported that this method did not work, and that the detectives could not access the device.
When the local press spoke to Phillips fiance, Victoria Armstrong, she expressed that she felt ‘violated’ and ‘disrespected’ by the act – believed to be the first of its kind that has been widely reported on.
It is not entirely clear what happened immediately prior to Phillips being stopped by the Police, or whether they had any prior intelligence on his activities which might give some idea as to why he refused to stop/be searched.
Legal experts based in the States have agreed that what the Detectives did, in relation to trying to unlock Phillips iPhone, was legal but they have queried as to whether or not the actions were appropriate.
Charles Rose, a professor at Stetson University College of Law, told the Tampa Bay Times that: ‘dead people cannot assert their Fourth Amendment Protections because you can’t own property when you are dead. But those rights could apply to whoever inherits the property.
It would seem that accessing a deceased persons phone is a bit of a grey area in general (apart from where such access is needed for matters of urgent National Security etc).
On Apple’s website it states:
‘Device Requests make up the majority of requests that Apple receives. Most commonly they come from law enforcement agencies working on behalf of customers who have requested assistance locating lost or stolen devices.
We report these as Device Requests. Additionally, Apple regularly receives multi-device requests related to fraud investigations. Device Requests generally seek information about a customer’s iPhone, iPad or Mac.’
Although we couldn’t find any specific information on Apple’s website in relation to law enforcement agencies accessing iPhones once it owner has passed away.
There is, however, plenty of reports on the internet in relation to work that has been carried out by Apple in order to make it harder and harder for law enforcement agencies to get access to its devices.
Clearly, this subject is a contentious one, but where urgent matters relating to National Security are at stake, I would find it hard to believe that our top scientists would not be able to gain access to any device – regardless of the firewalls which are placed on handsets by their manufacturers.
And rightly so.
When the lives of innocent people are at stake, then surely we hope and expect that the job of the security services would not be hampered by their inability to access some hardware which has some vital information or intelligence on it?
There will be many people who feel that devices such as mobile phones should not be able to be accessed by the security services under any circumstances.
And, of course, they are entitled to their own opinion.
But I would ask such a person if they have ever been the victim of a crime, or have they ever been caught up in a terrorist attack?
If they answered ‘yes’ I would then asked them how would they feel if the crime could have been prevented by the security services had they (the security services) been able to access the mobile phone of the perpetrator?
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