America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had a suspect unlock his iPhone X using FaceID for the first time ever. The agency was reported to have forced Grant Michalski – an Ohio resident with child pornography allegations – to unlock his iPhone X with his face on August 10.
The FBI reportedly had a search warrant which allowed them to force Michalski to unlock the phone.
After managing to unlock the phone, FBI’s special agent David Knight discovered conversations on Kik messenger about abusing minors. Michalski had previously communicated with an undercover officer on the application who posed as a father interested in such activities. He reportedly also exchanged a series of emails with another suspect, named William Weekley about his interest in incest and abusing minors.
The FBI was unable to gather more information because of a new iOS feature which requires you to enter a passcode to transfer data to a computer if the device has been locked for longer than an hour.
According to U.S legislation, suspects are legally allowed to keep passcodes to themselves under the fifth-amendment, but there is no such rule for newly introduced face and fingerprint data. Since the law is unclear about whether or not authorities can ask suspects to unlock their phones using their biometric data, courts are handling such cases on a case by case basis
Although the warrant did not allow the FBI to request a passcode to access the data, they were still eventually able to obtain access through the use of special tools. Companies such as Grayshift and Cellebrite already provide services to access locked iPhones. Both companies are working closely with various US government agencies.