Compliance Management, Government Regulations, Privacy

Court rules forcing defendants to turn over device passcodes unconstitutional

Case defendants cannot be required to turn over their phone passwords to the authorities, a court ruled earlier this week.

Forcing them to do so would be a violation of their Fifth Amendment constitutional rights. The Pennsylvania court ruling stems from a case in which the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) accused two former Capital One data analysts of insider trading.

The employees used bank-issued smartphones while allegedly conducting their crime, and the prosecution wanted to look through the phones to see if data could be recovered. Once obtaining the devices, however, authorities discovered they couldn't access any information without the passcodes.

The defendants cited their constitutional rights as reason enough not to fork over the unlock codes. The court agreed.

“Since the passcodes to Defendants' [sic] work-issued smartphones are not corporate records, the act of producing their personal passcodes is testimonial in nature and Defendants properly invoke their fifth Amendment privilege,” the opinion states.

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