zen.org Communal Weblog

December 15, 2007

They can't force you to give up your encryption key

Filed under: — brendan @ 19:17 GMT


A federal judge in Vermont has ruled that prosecutors can’t force a
criminal defendant accused of having illegal images on his hard drive
to divulge his PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) passphrase.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerome Niedermeier ruled that a man charged with
transporting child pornography on his laptop across the Canadian
border has a Fifth Amendment right not to turn over the
passphrase to prosecutors. The Fifth Amendment protects the right
to avoid self-incrimination.

Niedermeier tossed out a grand jury’s subpoena that directed Sebastien
Boucher to provide “any passwords” used with the Alienware
laptop. “Compelling Boucher to enter the password forces him to
produce evidence that could be used to incriminate him,” the judge
wrote in an order dated November 29 that went unnoticed until this
week. “Producing the password, as if it were a key to a locked
container, forces Boucher to produce the contents of his laptop.”

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