Smartphone Users Might Want To Take Note Of These Legal Related News Items

There’s a pair of legal related news items that relates to smartphone users that piqued my interest, and it should pique your interest as well. Let’s start with one aimed at Apple iPhone X users. In what may be a first, the FBI has “forced” a suspect to unlock his iPhone X using Face ID:

Agents in Columbus, Ohio entered the home of 28-year-old Grant Michalski, who was suspected of child abuse, according to court documents spotted by Forbes. With a search warrant in hand, they forced him to put his face on front of the device to unlock it. They were then able to freely search for his photos, chats and any other potential evidence. The FBI started investigating Michalski after discovering his ad on Craigslist titled “taboo.” Later, they discovered emails in which he discussed incest and sex with minors with another defendant, William Weekly.

Once you get past the creep factor, let’s just consider this. This really isn’t any different than cops “forcing” (I put the quotes in as the FBI got a warrant to do this) someone to unlock their phone via a fingerprint. Thus one could argue that there is nothing new here. But it is worth noting if you have Apple’s coolest phone in your possession when the cops pay you a visit.

The next piece of legal news come from New Zealand where travelers who refuse to hand over their phone or laptop passwords to Customs officials can now be slapped with a $5000 fine:

The Customs and Excise Act 2018 — which comes into effect today — sets guidelines around how Customs can carry out “digital strip-searches.” Previously, Customs could stop anyone at the border and demand to see their electronic devices. However, the law did not specify that people had to also provide a password. The updated law makes clear that travelers must provide access — whether that be a password, pin-code or fingerprint — but officials would need to have a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. “It is a file-by-file [search] on your phone. We’re not going into ‘the cloud.’ We’ll examine your phone while it’s on flight mode,” Customs spokesperson Terry Brown said. If people refused to comply, they could be fined up to $5000 and their device would be seized and forensically searched. Mr Brown said the law struck the “delicate balance” between a person’s right to privacy and Customs’ law enforcement responsibilities. “I personally have an e-device and it maintains all my records — banking data, et cetera, et cetera — so we understand the importance and significance of it.”

Now I’ve written about New Zealand before on a similar topic. Thus this doesn’t shock me. And realistically customs in any can demand to poke around your suitcase, frisk you or whatever as long as they have reasonable grounds….. Assuming of course you’re going to someplace where that applies. If you’re going to some repressive backwater where due process doesn’t exist then it sucks to be you. But I digress. Assuming that due process is being followed, then this isn’t a big deal as they searched roughly 540 electronic devices at New Zealand airports in 2017. You have to imagine that there are millions of travellers that go to that country which makes that number a drop in the bucket. However, if New Zealand uses this to go “hog wild” to search anything and everything they can get their hands on, that’s a problem. Hopefully someone is keeping an eye on this to see what happens next.



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