by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jul 12th 2011 3:57pm
Another big legal question is hitting the courts, as the Justice Deparment is asking a federal judge to require a woman to decrypt her encrypted laptop as part of a lawsuit against her for a mortgage scam. The government claims that forcing her to decrypt the laptop is no different than standard discovery procedures, such as requiring someone open a safe. However, others, including the EFF, are arguing on Fifth Amendment grounds, that individuals should not be compelled to decrypt such encrypted content, on the grounds that it's a form of incriminating yourself, if the content is found to be useful in prosecution. As we've discussed in the past, some courts have found that people cannot be forced to turn over their encryption key on this very basis. However, this case is slightly different, in that the government is seeking to get around such earlier rulings, by saying that it just wants to require her to type the password in herself to decrypt the laptop -- rather than demanding the key itself. However, the EFF's brief (pdf) in the case suggests that this really isn't a huge difference, and just the decryption requirement alone would be a Constitutional problem.
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