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[The Register] Smartphone passcodes (but not fingerprints) protected by the Fifth Amendment – US court

post #1 of 57
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Register View Post

The Feds can't make suspects give up their company-issued smartphone passcodes because doing so violates the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution.

So ruled Judge Mark Kearney of the federal court in East Pennsylvania in the case of Securities and Exchange Commission v Huang, an insider-trading case brought against two ex-Capital One bank workers. While that's good news for the defendants, Bonan Huang and Nan Huang, it's very bad news for prosecutors.

The Pennsylvania court ruled on Wednesday that forcing the pair to unlock the passcode-protected devices would violate their constitutional rights – specifically the Fifth Amendment, which spells out the right against self-incrimination.

"We find, as the SEC is not seeking business records but defendants' personal thought processes, defendants may properly invoke their Fifth Amendment right," the judge wrote in his analysis.

Oddly enough, this wouldn't be an issue if the smartphones in question used a fingerprint access system, rather than a passcode. Last year, a court ruled in Virginia that cops could force a suspect to unlock their phone using a fingerprint, since this is no different from being fingerprinted at a police station or giving a DNA swab.

It's a very fine legal distinction. A passcode is a thought process, which does get Fifth Amendment protection, whereas a biometric identifier is out in the open.

The SEC is bound to appeal the case and go to a higher court on this one. It's likely that the Supreme Court will eventually have to hear the case, but in the meantime, passcodes are protected.


    Passcodes are protected, but fingerprints are not?  What a funny world we live in!  (Link to source)
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post #2 of 57
completely and utterly ridiculous and inconsistent.
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post #3 of 57
Passcodes, fingerprints, THEY ALL APPLY. No one can force you to do something like that.
post #4 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by assaulth3ro911 View Post

Passcodes, fingerprints, THEY ALL APPLY. No one can force you to do something like that.
No one can force you to give something that you give away practically every day? And also in many places. Literally 10s if not hundreds of times a day do you leave your fingerprints on things.

I'm against self incrimination but if they were to get their fingerprints in whatever way even like against their will that wouldn't be self incrimination. They just have to struggle enough to keep them from taking finger prints thumb.gif

There is no kiddy fidler/inside trader in the world that would ever use their fingerprint to hide his/her stash so even they won't get this against them.
post #5 of 57
So, as soon as they hand you the phone to unlock it, you turn it off.

Oops, now it's a passcode system, can I have my constitutional rights back, kthx?
post #6 of 57
anyone wonders that 2 wallstreeters suddenly get protected? if it were 2 drug dealers, the judge would have decided differently
post #7 of 57
As ridiculous as this is, so is being in a situation in which handing over your phone to law enforcement becomes necessary.
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post #8 of 57
This ruling makes sense to anyone with a cursory understanding of US Constitutional law.

If you don't understand it and haven't studied it, your opinion isn't worth posting.
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post #9 of 57
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Supreme Court has held that "a witness may have a reasonable fear of prosecution and yet be innocent of any wrongdoing. The privilege serves to protect the innocent who otherwise might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances.
It's a reasonable call. If someone were being tortured or blackmailed, under accusation of terrorism, for instance, you would need the 5th to prevent their exploitation. Perhaps they're being tortured/blackmailed to reveal the password for a phone, and knowledge of that password proves their guilt. Perhaps it's not their phone. Perhaps, whatever, it doesn't matter. You can't force people to talk, because going that route necessitates ways of finding ways to force people to talk when they refuse.
I'm not saying this is a situation happening, but that is what the 5th is intended to protect us against and it is essential to observe these rights in any context, in order to preserve them.
A fingerprint, on the other hand, isn't something you'd torture someone to attain. It is evidence, like a fingerprint or DNA. In a court of law, with a warrant, it should be accessible. However, that's not to say that the contents of the phone should be entirely accessible.

Again, warrants.

Law and technology don't conflict each other as much as we're being conditioned to believe. We have rights to privacy, and rights to protection against corruption. They apply until we're caught in an act that warrants reasonable suspicious. That's when the government can get a (there's that word again,) warrant to infringe upon your rights; only when you have done something to make it necessary.
Edited by Mookster - 9/26/15 at 10:35pm
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post #10 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mookster View Post

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Supreme Court has held that "a witness may have a reasonable fear of prosecution and yet be innocent of any wrongdoing. The privilege serves to protect the innocent who otherwise might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances.
It's a reasonable call. If someone were being tortured or blackmailed, under accusation of terrorism, for instance, you would need the 5th to prevent their exploitation. Perhaps they're being tortured/blackmailed to reveal the password for their phone, because the official aims to access it.
I'm not saying this is a situation happening, but that is what the 5th is intended to protect us against and it is essential to observe these rights in any context, in order to preserve them.
A fingerprint, on the other hand, isn't something you'd torture someone to attain. It is evidence, like a fingerprint or DNA. In a court of law, with a warrant, it should be accessible. However, that's not to say that the contents of the phone should be entirely accessible.

Again, warrants.

Law and technology don't conflict each other as much as we're being conditioned to believe. We have rights to privacy, and rights to protection against corruption. They apply until we're caught in an act that warrants reasonable suspicious. That's when the government can get a (there's that word again,) warrant to infringe upon your rights; only when you have done something to make it necessary.

Excellent response. Are you an attorney?
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