A Florida court has ruled that a man suspected of voyeurism using his iPhone must turn over his 4-digit passcode to police.
Even with a warrant, they couldn't access the phone without the combination. A trial judge denied the state's motion to force the man to give up the code, considering it equal to compelling him to testify against himself, which would violate the Fifth Amendment. But the Florida Court of Appeals' Second District reversed that decision today, deciding that the passcode is not related to criminal photos or videos that may or may not exist on his iPhone.
That's clever. Because the passcode is itself not "evidence" against the suspect, he isn't really being compelled to incriminate himself. But the passcode is not a physical object; rather, it's knowledge located in the suspect's mind. The Florida court just ruled the police can have control over the things in your mind. A scary precedent.
Previously, courts have ruled that suspects must "give up" their fingerprints to unlock a phone, but not the combination or code. The difference between the two lies in a distinction between physical evidence (like a fingerprint) andknowledge (like a phone code or password). "This interpretation sources back to the Supreme Court's 1988 Doe v. U.S. decision, in which it ruled that a person may be compelled to give up a key to a strongbox, say, but not a combination to a wall safe," explains Endgaget.