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
    david (profile), 2 Dec 2009 @ 3:02am


    "Oh, Britain. Can you possibly suck as a country more?"

    Every time this sort of thing happens I used to think "that's it, this is as low as we can go." And then something else happens to prove me wrong. So, sadly, I'm forced to say that yes, we probably can.

    "We can't suck anymore than a country that goes to war with no evidence"
    Well no, but that's because we also went to war with no evidence.

    "...or that cons its own people in democratic ballots,"
    My own personal view of recent democratic elections suggests that -obviously, imho- we do that too.

    "...or one that restricts the building of places of worship,"
    Well, we do have a political party that's trying to pursue the Swiss government's recent outlawing of building minarets.

    "...or one that uses it's own people as hostage to political and military advantage,"
    I have no idea what you're talking about here.

    "...or one that chooses to destroy its environment to feed its people,"
    Seriously? America might be the furthest ahead in terms of generating pollution that affects climate, but we're not, per-capita, that far behind.

    "...or one that chooses to join the nuclear arms race,"
    You're serious? You're not aware of the various nuclear subs, and nuclear missiles available to Britain's armed forces?

    "Britians not perfect - neither are many others."
    Well, no one is. But I don't think the anonymous poster was trying to suggest that America was perfect (I'm presuming, all the way through, that the anon. poster is from the US), just that we're somehow becoming a nation even less enamoured of civil liberties than we used to be.

    Virgin Media's deep-packet inspection, BT and Phorm's use of traffic analysis, various legal companies sending out pre-litigation letters offering onerous settlement terms without proof, but nevertheless claiming accuracy and certainty. RIPA being used as a tool to harass parents of school children to check they're not lying when applying to 'good' schools, tracking down dog-walkers that didn't clean up the dog's faeces (which is certainly offensive, but to use RIPA?), and, of course, our legendary cameras-per-capita surveillance system, and impending ID cards.

    You're right: Britain's definitely not perfect; but the target should be to achieve perfection, or its semblance, not to move further from it. Orwell may, or may not, be shocked at the current situation, but I know I'm disgusted by it.

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