Because Only Criminals Use Encryption

from the not-a-good-thing dept

An interesting, if disturbing, ruling in a Minnesota court case about a guy convicted of child porn suggests that just having the PGP utility on your computer suggests you may be guilty of a crime, because, you know, if you had nothing to hide, why would you encrypt it? (Yes, for the sarcasm impaired, that was sarcasm). The guy in this case was clearly guilty and there was plenty of evidence against him, but there were some questions about whether or not the prosecution was right to include the fact that he had PGP on his computer in the case against him. The case never showed that he had any encrypted files, or that he used PGP to encrypt child porn -- just that he had it on his computer, as if it suggested obvious guilt. This point was appealed, but the court said it is relevant information. What's scary, of course, is how easy this ruling could be applied in other cases. If you're accused of any computer crime, and you happen to use PGP for legitimate purposes, just having it can be used against you in court.
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  1. identicon
    RANDDICKSON, 25 May 2005 @ 9:05am

    It's just evidence

    Won't even try to discuss the ethics/merits/etc of introducing the software (PGP) as evidence.

    But it is logical to allow it as the introduction of evidence which the jury should consider.

    To this point, it's the JURY that determines the weight of the evidence. That being said, our jury selection process tends to put the least informed individuals on a jury so whether PGP meant that much to them or not is questionable. Let the prosecutor and defendants lawyers spar on that.

    Further to the point; if this kind of thing worries you ... don't ever try to dodge jury duty. You may one day be on trial to be judged by 'a jury of your peers'. Wouldn't it be nice if they were really your peers and not just the poor saps who couldn't find a reason to get out of jury duty ?

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