Court sides with criminal defendant who refused to unlock his iPhone

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GrayKey can bypass iPhone security
Should criminals have to unlock their iPhones?
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

A Florida appeals court has sided with a criminal defendant who refused to turn over his iPhone passcode to the cops.

The 1st District Court of Appeal was responding to a 2018 robbery case in Alachua County. Previous courts had come to conflicting decisions about whether the defendant must reveal how to unlock his devices.

Defendant Matthew Tyler Pollard’s iPhone was seized from his car by police acting on a warrant. They then asked a judge to make him hand over his passcode. This was so that they could access information about buying or selling drugs or planning a robbery.

Pollard was charged with the armed robbery of two victims, who believed they were meeting him to buy drugs. A circuit judge ordered Pollard to turn over the passcode. However, an appeals court later reversed that decision. That’s because of 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

“Applied here, the state’s generalized requests for multiple categories of communications, pictures, and social media activity fit the description of net cast far too broadly,” noted Judge Scott Makar. “At best, the officer believed that text messages likely existed on Pollard’s phone because most criminal enterprises of this type operate via coordinated electronic communications that would leave a discoverable digital trail, but this generalized belief falls short of the reasonable particularity standard.”

A tricky legal area

This case is just the latest in a long line of confusing, and often contradictory, legal decisions about access to phone data. This data will increasingly become sought after. For example, in Europe, activity data from an Apple Watch was used as part of a murder investigation. It showed that the accused had undertaken physical activity thought to be moving a body.

Apple, for its part, has repeatedly defended privacy. This was most notable during the company’s 2016 standoff with the FBI. This revolved around whether Apple should help hack the iPhone belonging to a San Bernardino terrorist, in the search for digital evidence.

Source: Orlando Weekly