Father Pleads in Vain with Tim Cook to Open his Dead Son's iPhone because Touch ID Failed to Work when Needed
Leonardo Fabbretti pleading with Tim Cook to help him see the photos stored on his dead son's iPhone. The Italian architect sent a letter to Cook on March 21. Apple's customer care team has expressed sympathy, trying -- and failing -- to help Fabbretti unlock the iPhone.
Fabbretti's son Dama, adopted from Ethiopia in 2007, died in September 2015 at the age of 13. Dama had bone cancer. Dama had given Fabbretti access to his iPhone 6 by registering his thumbprint on the phone's Touch ID software. But Fabbretti says the phone restarted, preventing him from using Touch ID to log in. He doesn't know his son's passcode.
Fabbretti wants to get into the phone so he can see his son's photos, notes and other messages that will help him remember Dama. "Don't deny me the memories of my son," Fabbretti wrote in his letter to Cook. "I will fight to have the last two months of photos, thoughts and words which are held hostage in his phone."
Cellebrite, an Israeli forensics company that might have helped the FBI crack open Farook's phone, has offered to help Fabbretti break into the phone for free, according to the AFP. If it's unsuccessful, Dama's memories stored on his iPhone could be lost forever.
Facebook allows loved ones to take control of deceased customers' accounts. People can assign legacy contacts to manage their accounts after they die. Apple has no such policy for iPhones, software or iCloud. For more on this, see the full CNN report here.
As a side note or personal note, I had a situation recently where I switched iPhones with my wife. I gave her my iPhone 6 so that she could enjoy playing her games on the bigger display while I took her iPhone 5s with Touch ID until the iPhone 7 arrives this fall.
When switching accounts, something got screwed up. My wife and I had the same password to make it easy to access each others iPhone when we needed to. That worked just fine until we switched accounts and the iPhone 5s refused to open. Why the switch complicated matters is a mystery.
In the end when I went to the Apple Store's Genius Bar, they fixed it easily by accessing my iCloud account. The thing that angered me though was that Touch ID was useless. Without a passcode, your Touch ID is just marketing fluff. It won't open your iPhone. In the case of a screw-up where a user has to change a passcode, the stored Touch ID fingerprint should at least be a safety trigger to let a user back into their own phone to change the password. But no, the user is locked out.
Obviously Apple doesn't think Touch ID is worth a damn thing for security other than a marketing tool, because for actual security, it doesn't pass the laugh test apparently. Just listen to Apple's initial marketing of Touch ID and it's importance to security, not convenience once you're logged in with a 6 digit code. Listen to the detail of measuring your fingerprint and the secure enclave. All for naught, because independently it's not securing your iPhone in the least. The old fashion 6 digit passcode is. So who needs a secure enclave? It's just slick marketing. All it does is saves the user two seconds in keying in a numbered passcode. That's it.
While the genius bar attendant tried to defend Touch ID with me, it was useless. It just didn't work when it needed to. By itself it's useless. How clear is that? What is there to argue?
I'm sure that Mr. Fabbretti thought by registering his fingerprint with his son's iPhone that it would let him into his son's account when needed. That's the way it's marketed (see below). Apple doesn't say, hey, here's Touch ID but it only really works if you have a passcode. No, it's all about the "magic" of Touch ID. It's so magical that it doesn't really work when it counts!
To Apple: Please make Touch ID work as our passcode like you market it – but don't really deliver.