Fla. Judge Rules Sextortion Defendant Must Provide iPhone Password

Image Credit: Blackmail (CC BY-SA 2.0).

It generally takes the judicial system years to catch up with technology and when it finally figures out the proper way to handle a once cutting edge issue another novel situation appears. Extortion in the Digital Age is a growing problem. Whether its Ransomware, Sextortion, or other related issues, the legal community is trying to figure out the proper way to handle technology law and public policy issues.

An interesting case in Miami has re-ignited the debate on whether being required to provide your personal mobile phone password violates the Fifth Amendment which protects us from self-incrimination. The case involves bikini model rivals who each have a large social media following and the alleged extortion by one of them against the other over nude/compromising video/still images. It sounds like a case that would have been perfect for the 1980’s television show Miami Vice.

The defendants in the case have refused to voluntarily provide prosecutors access to their digital devices so prosecutors asked a court to compel them to turn over their personal digital device passwords. A state judge ruled earlier today that under Florida law, defendants must provide their passwords so law enforcement may search their digital devices for potential evidence.

There have been a handful of rulings over the years regarding this type of issue and it wouldn’t surprise me if this question of law is eventually decided in the Supreme Court. ¬†There needs to be a way for law enforcement to access personal digital information if they have followed the proper legal procedures (e.g. obtained a warrant); however, in order for there to be a proper balance between lawful access and privacy, there needs to be some type of parameters set on digital searches just like there are when police conduct physical searches of personal property.

I am sure we will see more of these types of cases in the future.