Monday, July 11, 2011

We have ways of making you talk

The Department of Justice is arguing that forcing a criminal suspect to give up the password to an encrypted hard drive does not constitute a violation of a person's Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

"Prosecutors stressed that they don't actually require the passphrase itself, meaning [Ramona] Fricosu would be permitted to type it in and unlock the files without anyone looking over her shoulder."

Oh, come on.
Declan McCullagh of CNET makes a good point in his article - if investigators instead had found some sort of journal or diary written in code, would they then be justified in making the suspect provide a translation against his or her will?  Of course not, and if such a key was involuntarily obtained one would also never be sure that what the person provided was indeed accurate.  A mentally-held password should not be handled any differently.  For that matter, what if the defendant really did forget the phrase?  Should someone get jail time for sincerely having a poor memory?

We're not sticking up for the suspects in this particular case, but rather the next law-abiding person who is ordered to turn over their computer for a search (including demanding login details) despite a complete lack of evidence to justify such a fishing expedition, a practice that happens on a daily basis at customs checkpoints both here and abroad.  Here's how to protect your data and private information from such snoops.

1 comment:

roxann Dominguez said...

I thought they had ways of getting it anyways? I didn't think they needed the person's cooperation?