Law Enforcement Uses Face ID To Unlock Criminal Suspect's iPhone X

When Apple launched the iPhone X, it went through extremes to make the display are of the smartphone as large as possible while minimizing the bezels. This meant the introduction of the notch at the top of the screen and the deletion of the home button where the fingerprint scanner was previously placed. Rather than put the fingerprint scanner on the back of the iPhone, Apple went to Face ID where your face serves as your password. The first reported instance of law enforcement having an iPhone X owner unlock their device with their face has now occurred.

face recognition

Forbes reports that when the FBI searched the home of a 28-year-old Grant Michalski in Ohio, they found an iPhone X in his possession that was locked with Face ID. The investigators in the case had a legal search warrant in their possession, and while conducting their search, one agent allegedly asked Michalski to put his face in front of the phone, which he willingly did. When a suspect is asked to unlock a device and willingly does what is asked of him, you can hardly call that "forced", as some reports have indicated.

Forced implies that the man was in some way pressured to unlock the device against his will. Once the iPhone X was unlocked, investigators were able to go through the suspect's chats, photos, and other phone content. Michalski was later charged with receiving and possessing child pornography. Law enforcement and tech firms have an ongoing clash over the security of users and the need for investigators to get to data locked inside smartphones in an investigation.

The attorney for Michalski, Steven Nolder, said, "Consequently, at this moment, they've not found any contraband on the cellphone. That's a Pyrrhic victory as there was contraband found on other devices but there would be no need to challenge the warrant's facial recognition feature as my client was not harmed by its use."

Apple is at the forefront of this strife and has actively worked to block access to locked devices by introducing encryption and features like USB Restricted Mode, which limits access to data via the USB port if the device hasn’t been unlocked in a set length of time. That change seemingly was aimed directly at thwarting the GrayKey tool that law enforcement uses to gain access to locked iPhones.