The largest computer company in the world, Apple, is about to make it more difficult for government agents to unreasonably search or seize your person, papers, home, and effects. Apple’s newest iPhone software update will prevent transfer of data from the phone’s charging and data port one hour after the phone is locked.
This will make it more difficult for law enforcement to skirt Fifth Amendment prohibitions against self-incrimination by gaining access to personal phones and the massive quantity of texts, phone numbers, contacts, email, location history, and Internet browsing history contained on it.
“When the drafters of the Constitution wrote the 4th Amendment, people’s papers were stored on their bookshelves or in their desks,” said Phoenix mayoral candidate and Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark. “Today, they are stored on our computers and smart phones. Warrants should be required for police searches of their contents.”
In the aftermath of the 2016 mass shooting incident in San Bernardino, police wanted Apple to unlock the suspect’s iPhone. Apple refused. A legal battle was averted when law enforcement availed themselves of the services of technology companies like Cellebrite and GrayKey, which could bypass security protocols by connecting through the charging and data port. After the new iPhone software update is fully distributed, law enforcement will largely lose access to this method of acquiring secure data.
“The Fifth Amendment says no one ‘shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,’” Sarwark said. “If a suspect, which could be as minor as someone stopped for speeding, refuses to be compelled to give up his phone’s password, police should not have the power, without a warrant, to force Apple to do so. That would be analogous to police searching your house after getting a key from your landlord. Apple should be applauded for safeguarding the privacy of its users.”