A PIN is better than a fingerprint for protecting private data on your phone. Most modern smartphones now have fingerprint scanners. They are great for adding an extra level of security to your phone and make it really convenient to log into accounts and pay for purchases. But it turns out that in the United States, they don’t help you maintain your privacy in front of law enforcement.
In October 2014, a Virginia court ruled that suspects can be asked to unlock their phones using their fingerprints. Apparently this wasn’t tested until this February, when a judge in Los Angeles issued a warrant requiring a woman accused of identity theft to unlock her iPhone with her fingerprint.
The key in this case is that had the woman used a pin instead of her fingerprint to lock her phone, she wouldn’t have had to unlock it for the police. This is because the Fifth Amendment, which protects people from incriminating themselves during legal proceedings, prevents government agencies from forcing people to turn over memorized codes. However, a fingerprint or any other biometric identifier, can be collected.
There are several ways to fool fingerprint scanners, including the use of tape, so if someone could find you, they could make a copy and use it to access your phone.