For the first time, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) unlocked a suspect's iPhone X using Face ID. The US service has forced Grant Michalski, a Ohio resident who is accused of downloading and possessing child pornography data, to unlock his iPhone X on August 10.
Let's say the FBI had the necessary investigation warrant that allowed him to force Michalski to unlock his phone.
After opening the phone, FBI Special Agent David Knight discovered talks on Kik chat messenger involving child abuse. Michalski had spoken to a police officer who had a father who was interested in having sex with children. He also exchanged emails with another suspect (William Weekley) for sexual contact with minors.
Despite the unlocking of Michalski's phone, Knight was unable to gather more information due to a new iOS feature. This feature requires the input of a password to transfer the data to a computer.
Under US law, suspects are not required to disclose passwords, but there is no law on facial and fingerprint data. So, due to the ambiguity of the law, authorities can ask anyone to unlock their device using biometric data.
The warrant we mentioned above did not allow Knight to ask for the password to look at the data. However, the Columbus Police Department and Ohio Office of Investigation have been able to unlock the device with special tools.
Companies such as Grayshift and Cellebrite have long been offering access to locked iPhones. Both companies have entered into contracts with various government agencies in the United States.
Apple and the US authorities seem to be playing the cat mouse game from 2016 when the Cupertino company refused to unlock the phone of a suspect. The company later developed a feature in iOS 11, which allowed users to temporarily disable the touchID by pushing the volume up button five times. Recently, someone has even made a shortcut to iOS 12 to automatically turn off the iPhone's camera in case of police investigation.
If you are interested in this shortcut you can download it from here.