With protests growing across the country, Americans are expressing anger with the state of modern affairs when it comes to the African-American community and police brutality. There are many other reasons to be concerned about the state of America from excessive force to growing riots and violence. But you shouldn’t be worried about your security.
Police officers lawfully can’t break into a user’s password-protected device without their permission. So if a person were to deny entry to a cop, they would have to accommodate that request. However, biometric-based security has complicated this order, since a cop could use other methods, like Face ID, to unlock the phone with your face and without your permission.
So how can a protester protect their data from being used by officials?
- Don’t Bring Your iPhone: As obvious as this might seem to some, not having your iPhone at all might make sense, as the possible damage and security risks to such devices could equal significant economic losses. Protestors might be able to save their money by leaving the iPhone at home.
- Buy a Burner: At events like this, it might be worth owning a flip phone or cheap “limited data” device that only allows texting and phone calls. Burners start at about $15 and go up, depending on how much data, texts, or minutes you need during your time protesting.
- Change the Password: Updating your password is always a wise idea, but it is particularly useful if in a situation where a device could be confiscated. By swapping the password to something more complicated, it can make guessing it much harder.
- Disable Biometrics: The use of biometrics has made unlocking devices even easier since an officer could, in theory, flash the device in front of a user’s face to unlock it. This is a breach of the Fifth Amendment, but it is possible. Protestors can do so by accessing Settings > Touch/Face ID & Passcode and turning off iPhone Unlock.
- Quick-Disable Your Biometrics: If you need a swift solution, the iPhone has you covered. iPhones have the Emergency SOS feature, where users just have to hold down the Power and a Volume buttons for five seconds before a panel comes up, allowing you to send a message to emergency contacts. More importantly, it disables your biometrics, which means the correct password would need to be entered to get back in.
It should be noted that if a police officer does in fact attempt to search a user’s iPhone or mobile device, they have the right to decline a warrantless search. But it must be stated publicly as the person is taken into custody in order for it to be considered.
If you wish to know more about your digital rights as a citizen, this document from the Electronic Freedom Foundation is a great place to start.