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 @ 12:13pm

    Re: Re: Re: What the big deal

    > If you can neither explain what it says

    Funny, 'cause that particular code is part of the Kryptos sculpture, which has yet to be broken even by the world's top cryptographers, using the the most powerful computers. If the NSA can't tell you what it means, how can some court legally require you to do so?

    > then it is perfectly reasonable for them to presume you are being
    > uncooperative

    That's fine. In America, I'm under no obligation to help the police build a case against me. It's actually a fundamental right. So they can presume all they want.

    > If I refuse access to my home (say for example because I had
    > plans for explosive devices hidden there), I'd get contempt of court.

    No, assuming the police had a warrant, you'd just be pushed aside while they searched anyway. It's unlikely you'd be charged with anything. If anything the charge would be obstruction. And if the police didn't have a warrant, then you're perfectly within your rights to refuse access.

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