Evan Schuman comments on a recent court opinion in Virginia v. Baust that a person can be compelled to open his phone with his fingerprint but that trying to compel the person to disclose his password implicates the 5th Amendment [media coverage of ruling, commentary by Orin Kerr].
In his commentary, Evan argues that a fingerprint scan is just a substitute PIN, which can’t be required by law enforcement. Here’s a snippet from his commentary:
But consider this scenario. I have a physical key that opens a physical deadbolt on the front door of my house. Because certain family members (who I will not name; they know who they are) have a tendency to forget or lose their house keys, I’ve debated changing the lock to accommodate a PIN keypad.
Now, according to this weird legal distinction, I could be forced to give my key to the police, but not my lock’s PIN. But hold on. Just as the iPhone’s finger scan is simply a digital version of a password/PIN, that deadbolt’s PIN is simply a digital alternative to my physical key. On what possible rationale should law enforcement treat the two differently?
Read his article on ComputerWorld.
Correction: This article previously misspelled Evan Schuman’s name.