“Police did not succeed in the biometric unlocking, perhaps because by the time of their funeral home visit, Phillip’s fingers no longer activated liveness detection technology in the smartphone.”
After killing a black man suspected of drug offences, Florida police entered the funeral home in which his body was housed and attempted to unlock his phone with one of his fingers.
The deceased, Linus F. Phillip, had been fired upon after attempting to flee from police officers in his car, which they had stopped due to its heavily tinted windows. The attempt to unlock his phone posthumously was reportedly part of a separate investigation into Phillip’s suspected drug crimes.
Police did not succeed in the biometric unlocking, perhaps because by the time of their funeral home visit, Phillip’s fingers no longer activated liveness detection technology in the smartphone. But their attempt to unlock the device was not in itself unusual, with police in the US now routinely using the fingers of the deceased to unlock smartphones – often in an attempt to find clues about who might have killed those individuals, which of course was not in question in Phillip’s case.
While such practices may at first seem to raise privacy issues, legal experts say that US law dictates that the dead have no such rights. Nor was it illegal for the officers to have made their phone unlocking attempt in a funeral home, though it only succeeded in leaving Phillip’s fiancé feeling “disrespected and violated,” as she put it to one reporter.