By Roger Fingas
Saturday, October 13, 2018, 4:09 pm PT (7:09 pm ET)
While US police sometimes force suspects with Face ID-enabled iPhones to unlock their devices, Apple's technology also makes it a risky affair, a security firm warns the authorities.
Elcomsoft spreads the warning in a slideshow and tells the law enforcement agency, "Do not look at the screen or anything else." If they even look at an iPhone's TrueDepth camera, according to Elcomsoft, they might have the same problem that Apple manager Craig Federighi posed when they presented Face ID in 2017 – a locked phone that requires a passcode.
"It's pretty easy, and passcode is needed to customize a face after five unsuccessful attempts," says Elcomsoft CEO Vladimir Katalov motherboard, "So, by looking [a] the phone of the suspect, [the] Investigator loses immediately[s] one of [the] Tries."
The first known example of US police demanding someone to unlock the Face ID was on August 10, when the FBI ransacked a Columbus man's home as part of a child abuse investigation. He co-operated and helped set up a case against child pornography against him, but initially only a limited amount of information was extracted from his iPhone X because the agents had no passcode.
The courts have ruled that the Fifth Amendment prevents suspects from sharing a passcode, which, ironically, makes biometric security the best legal way to search for a mobile device. A number of people have already been made to unlock Touch ID iPhones, even the dead.