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.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    secret-squirrel, 24 May 2005 @ 5:40pm

    Problems with evidence in all trials

    No matter what you think of the current Michael Jackson prosecution, and the upcomming one against Phil Spectre, it is troubling that the prosecution can bring in the types of uncorroborated evidence that they can in those cases.

    In the MJ case, the law allows the prosecution broad powers to enter what would be called prejudicial evidence, in the furtherance of showing prior bad acts for some of the crimes shown. But on the other side, which you may find yourself on some day, you are only guaranteed protection in a criminal matter when the prosecution alleges a case about all the counts you have against you at the time, and you can confront the evidence or accusers in court.

    Prior bad act evidence has gotten fairly far afield nowdays by allowing this stuff to come in. The latest thing against phil spectre is that not only does he have to show whether he is guilty of the crime he is accused of, but now has to deal with a bunch of other women who say he pulled a gun on them. No other things have to be done by the prosecution to bring that into the trial record against him, not for pulling the guns on those women, but to show how bad he is and that he may have had a disposition to do the crime he is charged with.

    so he has to now in his defense show he didn't do the other acts, not assume there is a presumption of innocence except beyond a reasonable doubt there.

    So this PGP thing is very similar to that sort of reaching.

    Everyone can be horrified by the acts against children and molesters, but we all suffer when we have gone the easy way in the law which is to weaken all our protections against overzealous prosecutors.

    The use of mearly having PGP, or later who knows, bit torrent will be in and of itself allowable without a prosecutor having to show it's relevence before bringing it before the jury.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

Introducing the new Techdirt Insider Chat, now hosted on Discord. If you are an Insider with a membership that includes the chat feature and have not yet been invited to join us on Discord, please reach out here.

Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.