Justice Department Says It Should Be Able To Require People To Decrypt Their Computers

from the legal-questions dept

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.

Filed Under: decryption, encryption, fifth amendment


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. icon
    btr1701 (profile), 13 Jul 2011 @ 1:16pm

    Re: Lost the key

    > For example criminal hears his front door get
    > knocked in, presses a certain keyboard combination
    > causing his solid state encrypted hard drive,
    > along with some fuel source, to catch fire
    > and become ashes in a matter of seconds.

    We had a CP case years ago where we served the warrant on the guy, arrested him at his house and seized his computers. Took them back to our office for forensic examination and when we started them up, found every single disk and drive was completely blank.

    Turns out he embedded extremely powerful magnets in the door frame and window frame of the room where he kept the computers and when the computers were taken out through the door, it wiped the drives.

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.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

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