Police Can’t Even Look At New iPhones Now Due To Face ID Lock-Out

Apple has been at odds with law enforcement over its ever-increasing security measures that have at times thwarted efforts to gain access to iPhones during an investigation. Earlier this month reports surfaced indicating that law enforcement had been able to get a user to unlock his iPhone using Face ID. Law enforcement now faces a new challenge; a company called Elcomsoft is warning law enforcement to not look at an iPhone with Face ID.

face recognition

The reasoning behind not looking at the iPhone is that security measures on the device can make it harder to unlock the phone if it sees the wrong face too many times. If too many failed attempts to unlock the device via Face ID occur, the device can default to forcing you to enter a passcode, which can be harder to obtain. Elcomsoft outlined warnings for law enforcement in the slide seen below, which is referring to an Apple 2017 Face ID presentation.

elecomsoft slide

Simply looking at the iPhone will use one of the five attempts that an investigator has to unlock the device. This feature was confirmed via Apple's documentation, according to Vladimir Kataloc, Elcomsoft's CEO. Some law enforcement agencies have gone to extremes to get a device while it is unlocked. Motherboard reports that in one instance in the UK, police simulated a mugging to get an iPhone from a suspect while it was in use and unlocked.

Agencies in the U.S. rely less on muggings, and more on technical and legal means to gain access to devices. Courts have compelled suspects to unlock devices with fingerprints or faces in some instances. The catch is that once the device locks with a passcode, suspects have right under the Fifth Amendment of the constitution that protects them from self-incrimination.