Kanye West’s Thumb or his Zeros?

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Kanye West and Donald Trump really are brothers from different mothers; both like making headlines–doesn’t much matter how or why, and they share the same taste in hats. But one of the biggest revelations from West’s surreal visit to the Oval Office this week was that the security code for his iPhone was 000000.

Why on earth, people ask, wouldn’t he use iPhone’s biometric authentication to unlock it if entering in a number higher than zero was such a hassle? Fingerprint and facial verification are by no means foolproof (prints can be procured from a (high quality) photo) and of course Kanye’s face has been photographed enough that a 3D replication of it wouldn’t be too difficult.

There is another problem, articulated well by one-time Kanye collaborator Jay-Z:

Well my glove compartment is locked, so is the trunk and the back
And I know my rights so you goin’ need a warrant for that.”

“99 Problems” correctly states one very solid reason to avoid biometrics. A mobile device that is protected by a passcode is covered by a citizen’s 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable search (and also certain citations of the 5th for self-incrimination). Fingerprints aren’t. It sounds arbitrary, but ultimately courts have ruled that a law enforcement officer can get you to surrender your driver’s license, fingerprint, etc., but if it’s a number in your head, (presumably even if it’s 000000), a warrant is required.

Is that West’s reasoning? Whether or not racism is a state of mind or an “invisible wall” as West proclaimed in the Oval Office, an African-American man isn’t immune to getting undue scrutiny from the police–not even a wealthy who has been a guest in the Oval Office. There are countless studies confirming as much, or consider the case of world-renowned theorist and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who was arrested on his own front porch for breaking and entering in 2009, or Corey Lewis, who was arrested on October 10th in Atlanta while babysitting.

West’s behavior may keep us guessing as regards his sanity, but when it comes to his choice of phone authentication, he may be onto something.