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Facial recognition tech: Easier for police to access your phone?

Smart phones are getting smarter and smarter. Literally. The new iPhone X contains software that allows the device to recognize its owner's face. When in the presence of its owner, the phone will automatically unlock. The software will also continually learn the owner's face. Growing a beard? Getting a new pair of glasses? The phone will adapt and still know its owner.

In theory, this seems like a pretty handy advancement. This software can speed up access to the phone by removing the need to type in a security code. In reality, it could pose a violation of constitutional rights.

How could your smartphone violate your constitutional rights? Let's take the following scenario. A police officer stops you on suspicion of drunk driving. The officer conducting the stop gathers enough evidence to warrant a search. During the search, the officer asks you to unlock your phone. You do not give the officer the security code.

What can an officer do? Currently, the officer would likely need to get a warrant to get into the phone. With this new technology, it is possible the officer could simply angle the phone towards the owner's face and it would automatically unlock.

What constitutional right is violated in this scenario? A recent piece by PBS Newshour delves into this basic scenario, noting that using someone's face against their will to unlock a phone is likely a violation of a person's right to be free against self-incrimination. This right is provided by the Fifth Amendment.

What options do those charged with a crime have in these types of scenarios? This provides an example of how technology is causing criminal law to evolve. A previous post discussed how the Internet of Things through devices like Alexa and Echo can gather information that could serve as evidence to support criminal charges.

Due to the ever changing nature of this area of law, it is wise for those who are facing allegations of criminal charges to take the allegations seriously. It is in your interest to seek legal counsel. An experienced criminal defense attorney can build a case utilizing current changes in the law to help better ensure your rights are protected.

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