UK Man Jailed For Refusing To Decrypt His Files

from the right-against-self-incrimination dept

Two years ago, a US judge ruled that a guy with an encrypted hard drive did not have to hand over his encryption key to the police, as it would be a violation of the 5th Amendment (the right not to self-incriminate). The argument there is that the encryption key is a form of "speech." This is quite a reasonable ruling -- but it appears that over in the UK they view encryption keys quite differently. Last year, we wrote about a UK court ruling interpreting the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) to mean that people could be required to hand over encryption keys, since encryption keys were not "speech" but an object that could be demanded. Unfortunately, this has now resulted in a schizophrenic man being jailed for refusing to decrypt his files. As many are noting, this seems to be an abuse of law enforcement, as the purpose of the RIPA law was supposed to be about stopping organized crime and terrorism, not dumping the mentally ill in prison.

Filed Under: crime, decryption, uk

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  1. icon
    btr1701 (profile), 2 Dec 2009 @ 9:40am

    Re: Actual encryption?

    > Some encryption schemes will produce a file that cannot be
    > distinguished from a corrupt file.

    And some encryption software provides a contingency key that will forever wipe or scramble the contents, just for this reason.

    The police demand you give them the decryption key, so you provide them with the "suicide" key and when they try it, the file disappears or is hopelessly corrupted. And the beauty is, they won't be able to prove why-- it could just as easily be operator error on their part.

    Better yet, you leave the suicide key written down somewhere in your place where it's easily discoverable by cops conducting a search, then they won't even bother asking you for the key. They'll just try the one they found on their own, which further removes you from liability when the key erases the files.

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