It finally happened – the day we were dreading when iPhone facial recognition technology will be used for more than unlocking your phone. Now Face ID, having the same purpose, is being used not by just iPhone users but FBI as well! Such tactics were used in a recent OHIO case by the agency, making it one of a kind. Yes, they went through the whole drill – obtaining a warrant, remaining under the bounds of the law, having permission etc. Thanks to their interesting legal action, an Apple iPhone X owner became a convict!
Wondering when did you last hear about a suspect unlocking their device with their own face? It’s the first time that FBI has unlocked a person’s phone using iPhone facial recognition technology!
But can you really catch a convict through a phone by facial ID? Apparently, yes! Forbes reports that FBI attempted this in a raid in August 2018.
FBI raided the home of 28-year-old Grant Michalski, accused possessing of child pornography along with a search warrant. That’s when Grant’s iPhone X was confiscated.
This investigation unearthed by Forbes is officially the first known case by any police agency (in the world) to use iPhone facial recognition technology to investigate.
What was the purpose?
The FBI wanted to confirm and investigate Mr Grant for receiving and possessing child pornography with enough evidence (using technology) which allowed them to press further charges.
How did they do it?
A federal investigator told Grant Michalski (the accused) to put his face in front of his iPhone X, which he did. This trick allowed the agent to gather his online chats, photos and other crucial investigative material.
What happened next?
After the agents asked Michalski to unlock the device via iPhone facial recognition technology, they placed his iPhone into airplane mode to check all files and folders manually. They also documented the findings with pictures.
What did FBI find?
After they asked for and were granted a proper search warrant, the agents found conversations over chat app Kik Messenger indicating abuse of minors. Michalski had used Kik to act as an undercover officer posing as a father interested in sex with children.
Has this method been used before?
No. You’ll be surprised to know that the Columbus Police Department and the Ohio Bureau of Investigation have used “technological devices that are capable of obtaining forensic extractions from locked iPhones without the passcode.” The other two companies who have used such services are Cellebrite and Grayshift.
Law problem for FBI?
As the law doesn’t permit this tactic currently, the cops were using boilerplate language in warrants to be allowed access to iPhone facial recognition technology. “Law seems to be developing to permit this tactic,” a special agent noted.
What’s the hue and cry about?
Suspects have been allowed to decline to reveal passcodes as it could amount to self-incrimination. However, biometric information, like fingerprints or face scans, have been spared as the body hasn’t been deemed a piece of knowledge.
Other ways iPhone assists federal investigations?
Other than a passcode, a feature called SOS mode can make you shut down Face ID and Touch ID with just 5 clicks of the side button and one of the volume buttons in iPhone X. If the phone isn’t used in 48 hours, a passcode will be required.
In the meantime, the technical tussle between cops and tech firms continues.