Fingerprint System Makes Fifth Amendment “Obsolete”
No one else on the planet has the fingerprints you do, making your prints the most private thing you own. But these unique identifiers might work against you if Apple’s new identification system becomes the industry standard. It is, in fact, a technology that could undermine the Fifth Amendment.
Recently, Apple unveiled a biometric system for the iPhone which makes it possible for users to unlock their phone via fingerprint identification. Convenient, right?
Unless someone wants to hack off your pinky, you would have the comfort of knowing that no one can breach your phone. Even better: you wouldn’t run the risk of forgetting a password―you are the password.
But here’s where it gets dicey.
Under the Fifth Amendment, you have constitutional sanctuary when it comes to self-incrimination. That means that no one, not even the President himself, can force you to implicate yourself by giving up anything that is known to you. For example, memory-dependent keys like PIN numbers and passwords, things typically stored in your memory bank, are protected from authorities and prosecutors while they remain bits of mental data. Thanks to the Constitution.
When it comes to physical objects, such as the key to a safe box… or, say, your shiny new iPhone, a court can potentially force you divulge the info. As attorney and law professor Marcia Hofmann explained to Wired, Apple’s fingerprint ID system may “inadvertently [undermine] the legal rights we currently enjoy under the Fifth Amendment.”
If the tech catches on, perhaps even used to unlock the doors of your house, an important right set up to protect you will die a very quick death. Still want that new Apple iPhone so badly?
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