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Report: Unprecedented warrant compels all occupants in residence to unlock phones with fingerprints

DoJ mass fingerprint warrant memorandum

In a move to overcome mobile security protections, federal law enforcement officials this past May served a California address with a warrant requiring any occupants on premises to use their fingerprints or thumbprints to open up their phone for investigators. 

According to a Forbes report published on Sunday, this is the first time the U.S. government has attempted to acquire the fingerprint biometrics of multiple people at a location in order to access their smart devices.

A notice of memorandum filed by the Department of Justice on May 9 stated the agency's intention to receive “authorization to depress the fingerprints and thumbprints of every person who is located at the SUBJECT PREMISES during the execution of the search and who is reasonably believed by law enforcement to be the user of a fingerprint sensor-enabled device that is located at the SUBJECT PREMISES and falls within the scope of the warrant.”

Although the DoJ claimed in its memorandum that the terms of the search were constitutional, attorney Marina Medvin of Medvin Law told Forbes the warrant would be an “unbelievably audacious abuse of power if it were permitted.” A resident at the property told Forbes that the warrant was, indeed, executed.

Bradley Barth

As director of multimedia content strategy at CyberRisk Alliance, Bradley Barth develops content for online conferences, webcasts, podcasts video/multimedia projects — often serving as moderator or host. For nearly six years, he wrote and reported for SC Media as deputy editor and, before that, senior reporter. He was previously a program executive with the tech-focused PR firm Voxus. Past journalistic experience includes stints as business editor at Executive Technology, a staff writer at New York Sportscene and a freelance journalist covering travel and entertainment. In his spare time, Bradley also writes screenplays.

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