No one will be able to unlock and access your phone using your dead fingers.

This story is no less than a detective thriller. In March, a team of detectives visited a funeral home with the phone of Linus Phillip, who was shot dead by a police officer in Florida. They wanted to use Phillip’s fingers to unlock his phone. They even had the permission as it is legal in Florida, but all they got was the disappointment. They couldn’t unlock the phone of the deceased.

What’s legal and what’s not and what ethical and what’s not aren’t exactly the question of the hour.

We are going to focus on why the detectives were not able to unlock Phillip’s phone.

Do fingerprints vanish after death?

Didn’t the fingerprints match? Was there something with the phone hardware?


Michigan University’s computer science professor Anil Jain, who has dedicated a large part of his life working on fingerprint recognition technology, says unlocking a Smartphone using a dead man’s fingers is difficult, and it keeps getting more difficult as the time passes after death.

How does fingerprint scanner work?

The co-author of the book “Handbook of Fingerprint Recognition,” Dr. Jain told the Live Science magazine that a smartphone’s fingerprint scanner uses the human body’s electrical conductance to accomplish its functions.

The human body is a storehouse of electricity. When we place our fingertip on a fingerprint scanner, the scanner uses the electric charge transferred to develop a detailed image. However, after death, the electrical conductance in the human body discontinues, and it gets difficult and sooner impossible for the scanner to read the electric charge.

The scientists are uncertain how long the electric conductance remains in the body after death. A lot of dead bodies – fresh to old – and phones will be required to conduct this research, in addition to a volunteer researcher who can frequently check if the fingerprints of those bodies can unlock their phone. For this exercise, you will need to find someone who can stay in the morgue for a long time.

That sounds impracticable.

As of now, no present-generation fingerprint recognition technology supports reading a dead finger. Ultrasonic scanners use ultrasonic waves to measure the stress patterns on the finger and unlock the phone. However, whether this technology works on dead fingers has yet to be detected.

Technology keeps changing though. Sometime in near future, opening and accessing phone that way could be possible.