Police visit funeral home to borrow dead man’s fingerprints
In one of the first cases of its kind, Florida police went to a funeral home and tried using a dead man’s finger to unlock his mobile phone.
The man in question, Linus Phillip, was shot and killed last month by a Largo police officer after allegedly driving away before the officers could search him. Two officers reportedly went to the funeral home and placed the 30-year-old’s finger to the device’s fingerprint sensor, but could not make it unlock.
According to Tampa Bay Times, Lt. Randall Chaney said the officers attempted to access data on Phillip’s phone to assist in both the investigation into his death, and another separate drugs enquiry that involves him.
The dead man’s fiancée, Victoria Armstrong, who was at the funeral home at the time, says she felt disrespected and violated.
However, according to the Tampa Bay news site, most legal experts agree that what took place was perfectly legal, despite not necessarily being the most appropriate behaviour.
Speaking to the website, Charles Rose, professor at Stetson University College of Law, explained that dead people cannot assert the fourth amendment – which protects their body and property against unreasonable searches and seizures – because you cannot own property when you’re dead.
It’s not altogether surprising that the police’s attempts at using Phillips’ fingerprint proved fruitless, because fingerprint sensors like Apple’s TouchID use a combination of a capacitive sensor that’s activated by the slight electrical charge that runs through the skin of a living person, and a radio frequency that only responds to living tissue.
If they’re desperate to get into Phillips’ phone, it might be possible using a device like the GrayKey, providing the device in question is an iPhone. This controversial device, which costs $30,000 (£21,000), claims to unlock any device running iOS 10 and iOS 11 within two to three days.
In 2016, Apple refused to give the FBI access to the iPhone 5c of gunman Syed Rizwan Farook, who killed 14 people with his wife Tashfeen Malik in San Bernardino, California.