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Apple Trials Privacy Button Disabling Touch ID

Apple has released a new feature for its upcoming iOS 11 platform designed to allow users to disable Touch ID in a hurry, which could be help to bolster privacy in the face of increasingly intrusive state demands.

According to the new capabilities, if a user hits the power/sleep button five times in quick succession it will bring up a new screen.

This second screen requires users to manually enter a passcode to unlock the device, plus it offers a sliding button to dial the emergency services.

Eagle-eyed Apple fans have spotted the new feature in the beta version of iOS 11 and claim it could help iPhone users protect their privacy in the face of demands to access their phone.

The key here is that, according to legal precedent in the US, police can force users to unlock their devices via a built-in fingerprint reader. However, they can’t demand a passcode or password as this is covered by the Fifth Amendment, which protects individuals from self-incrimination.

In 2014, a Virginia District Court ruled that passcodes but not biometrics are protected by the constitution, and in January a Minnesota court of appeals ruled against a burglar who complained of being forced by the authorities to unlock a seized device with his fingerprint.

However, the law is still not 100% clear on the subject.

A child abuse suspect was jailed in Miami for six months earlier this year after refusing to hand over their passcode to the authorities.

In the UK, meanwhile, police can’t force suspects to unlock their device via fingerprint, but they’ve hit upon a new strategy.

In December last year it was revealed that Scotland Yard staged a street mugging to deprive a suspect of his phone as he was making a call; ensuring it was unlocked at the point of seizure and could be kept that way until forensics teams could search it.

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