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iOS 11 security: new feature protects your data in an emergency

The latest beta release of iOS 11 has unveiled a new security feature – now, five quick presses of the power button will grant instant access to the user’s medical ID and a shortcut for calling emergency services.

What’s interesting about this new emergency feature is that it automatically disables Touch ID until next login, meaning the only way into the device after the quick SOS mode has been engaged is to type in the passcode.

Some reports are calling this feature the “cop button,” as it could be used to keep a device locked if questioned by the police. There’s a legal distinction between Touch ID and a regular password – while cops can (in theory) force somebody to unlock a device using their fingerprint, they don’t have the legal power to make somebody hand over their passcode.

We’re not sure Apple intended this feature as a “cop button,” but it certainly could be useful in such circumstances. Where the feature has a broader use is in medical emergencies, however. Deactivating the fingerprint sensor means that if a user were to fall unconscious, nobody would be able to use their finger to unlock the device without their permission.

However, even with Touch ID disabled anyone can still look through the device’s stored Medical ID data – which can include information about medications or allergies, as well as blood type and emergency contact numbers. Five presses of the power button is a quick way to automatically launch this mode if a user thinks they’re in trouble, which could be especially useful for those who suffer from seizures.

Which reminds us: if you haven’t setup Medical ID yet, you really should. Tap here for instructions.