According to newly proposed amendments to the penal code, police can gain access to fingerprint-locked phones using coercion. The judicious use of force is expected to help uncover cases of sex-related violence and abuse.
"Several cases concerning abuse of children and adolescents were revealed by excavation of data," police lawyer Cecilie Gulnes told Norwegian national broadcaster NRK.
"There are of course many conflicting considerations here, but opening a fingerprint-locked phone is a rather mild measure compared with other forceful remedies," Gulnes said. "Therefore it is important to have such an amendment to make it possible to detect abuse cases and stop abusers," she added.
According to human rights lawyer Jon Wessel-Aas, there is nothing new with police striving to gain access to evidence, where there are reasonable grounds to suspect a criminal offence.
"It is just a matter of how far into people's private life they can go during investigation," Jon Wessel-Aas told NRK.
"Applying force does not help, if you don't have the right finger or password," Wessel-Aas said.
Ove Vanebo of the Norwegian Justice Ministry argued it was a step in the right direction to give police the right to unlock phones by force. According to him, this measure may yield extra evidence, as perpetrators may have proof stored on their mobiles.
"Imagine people having filmed an episode of assault or unlawful sexual depictions of minors. It is important to have the necessary tools available to be able to obtain this kind of material," Vanebo told NRK.
According to Vanebo, the police may be given the right to unlock mobile phones starting from next year.