Opening your phone with your #fingerprint or facial recognition is cool and convenient. But enabling Touch ID or Face ID basically gives free access to your phone if you’re arrested. Thankfully #iOS and #Android let you temporarily turn off fingerprint or face recognition with several different methods.
Why would you need to quickly lock up your phone? Well, several courts have ruled that #law enforcement can’t force you to enter your phone’s passcode, but they can force you to open your phone with your fingerprint. So any time you expect a brush with law enforcement—going through TSA or customs, or any time you’re getting pulled over, attending a protest, or doing anything near scared white people—you should lock up your phone. Here’s how.
Android P (now in beta) includes a “lockdown mode” that requires your swipe pattern or passcode. Open Settings > Security & location > Lock screen preferences. Toggle on Show lockdown option. Then any time you want to activate lockdown, hold down your power button and tap Enter lockdown.
You can make a home screen shortcut for the setting using the Tasker app ($2.99 on Google Play). Create a “System lock” task (Display > System lock) and add a shortcut to your home screen. Then whenever you need to lock up your phone, tap the shortcut.
Power and Volume Buttons
The easiest, least-detectable way to turn off Touch ID or Face ID is to hold down the power button and either of the volume buttons. (On iPhones 5S to 7, hit the power button five times.)
After a few seconds, your phone will vibrate and offer three options: Power off, Medical ID, and Emergency SOS. Whatever you select, even Cancel, your phone will ask for your passcode to unlock.
Once you unlock your phone, Touch ID will be enabled again. So you have to repeat this step every time you lock your phone.
Those lock screen options are pretty cool: Medical ID shows whatever emergency contact info you’ve stored. Emergency SOS immediately calls 911. If you cancel that, it counts down ten seconds before calling your emergency contacts. If you cancel that, it finally calms down. But your phone will still require your passcode to unlock.
If you have Listen for “Hey Siri” enabled, then saying “Hey Siri, whose phone is this?” to your locked phone will disable Touch/Face ID. Like the button-press method, this only lasts until you’ve unlocked your phone once.
On iOS, you can go into Settings > Touch ID & Passcode (or Face ID & Passcode) and toggle off iPhone Unlock. Next time you lock your phone, you’ll need to enter your passcode to get back in. Unlike the above methods, this change sticks around until you go back into Settings and turn Touch/Face ID back on. (Your phone still remembers your face or fingerprint, so you won’t have to teach it again.)
You can always turn off your phone. Whenever you turn it back on, it will require your passcode to unlock. So if the other methods aren’t working for some reason, you could always reboot your phone to lock it.
More Extreme Measures
On Android or iOS, you can turn off fingerprint and facial recognition entirely, and just use a passcode. (On Android you can also use a swipe pattern, but make sure it’s hard to guess.) Typing a passcode every time is a bit clumsy, but at least it keeps the keys to your phone locked up in your head.
If that’s not enough, you can back up all your data, wipe your phone, and restore later. Of course, that makes your phone pretty useless in the interim.
Lastly, go through your settings to see what’s available on your lock screen. If your calendar, text alerts, or other lock screen widgets contain sensitive information, disable them. No point locking up your phone if a new text can undo all that hard work.