Law enforcement agencies are currently pretty miffed at companies like Apple and Google who have made it harder for them to access devices. This is because these companies have basically handed over the encryption keys to the user, meaning that only the user can unlock their devices and there’s really nothing that these companies can do.
Now it looks like things are about to get tougher for these law enforcement agencies because a Seattle-based District Judge has recently ruled that unless the police have a search warrant, even viewing the lock screen of a handset can be considered as a search. This means that without a warrant, it violates the person’s Fourth Amendment rights.
This stems from a case back in 2019 where a man by the name of Joseph Sam was arrested and indicted on charges related to robbery and assault. A year later when the FBI obtained the phone, they turned on the phone and took a photo of the phone’s screen, in which Sam’s lawyer argued in the court that it should not be admissible as evidence due to the lack of a warrant.
The judge overseeing the case agreed where it was suggested that by taking a photo of the phone’s lock screen, it was qualified as an unlawful search and violated Sam’s Fourth Amendment rights. There is no doubt that moving forwards, this will set a precedent for future similar cases.