Smartphone companies have provided users with multiple options for securing their phone’s data. These include password protection, PINs, encryption software, biometric strategies for opening the phone such as fingerprints and facial recognition software.
However, technology has given users a false sense of security and an illusion of privacy. During a criminal investigation, however, law enforcement agencies can and will open your phone with or without your consent if they want to.
How law enforcement can get your phone’s private data
Law enforcement professionals have many ways to get around smartphone encryption. Let’s look at four key ways.
- Simply ask: They can simply ask that you unlock your phone. Usually accompanied by threats, this strategy is a quick and easy strategy to gain access to your phone without the need for a warrant. If you comply with their request, they will gain immediate access to your phone’s contents.
- Wiretap: Old-school tactics like wiretapping phones are the traditional way to gain a limited form of access to your phone. This persists as an option because it works.
- Warrants: If a warrant is obtained by law enforcement, then your phone will be opened. In one 2018 case that went to court, the phone’s fingerprint locking feature thwarted the police’s efforts to enter a phone. The defendant refused to unlock his phone with his fingerprint. However, he later unlocked his phone for investigators after being ordered by the court and charged with contempt.
- Smartphone access tools: All fifty states have implemented third-party smartphone access tools. The leaders in this multi-million-dollar industry are an Israeli law enforcement contractor (Cellebrite), and a US-based forensic access firm (Grayshift). These are essentially “white hat” hackers that break smartphone manufacturers’ security features to law enforcement agencies.
Smarter than a smartphone
With these four simple tactics, law enforcement agencies have proven that they are smarter than our smartphones. Privacy is a myth, and anything said, captured, or conducted on a phone is evidence. Therefore, users must be smarter than their smartphones as well to avoid self-incrimination.
If you’re facing criminal charges, your smartphone could play a pivotal role in the outcome of your case. An experienced criminal defense attorney can provide more information about your rights and exactly what police can and can’t do you’re your smartphone.