Chipping away at it

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism, Decline and Fall at 8:23 am by George Smith

I was asked what I thought of some minor federal court judge’s ruling that a suspect in a criminal case can be compelled to decrypt their hard disk.

I took the dim view:

George Smith, a senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, believes the judge’s ruling, although “commensurate with the times we live in,” not only infringes on people’s rights, but also sets a very dangerous precedent, one that extends government intrusion well into a person’s private life …

“There is now a long history of governments using and misusing private digital materials against citizens,” Smith told SecurityNewsDaily. “Because this is a small-time criminal case is not an even half decent reason to attempt to nullify that.”

Presented with the hypothesis that an ecrypted hard drive might be analogous to a wall safe containing incriminating documents, Smith dismissed it.

“You can keep a lot of your life, or at least a very good description of your years of personal communications, hobbies, work, loves, vices, likes, dislikes and activities from start to finish, etc., on your hard disk and removable drives these days,” he said. “You can’t keep your life in a wall safe.”

For clarification, some law-and-order desire for a conviction in what amounts to a trivial criminal case, the defendant is accused of being a small town mortgage scam artist, is no reason to take chip away everyone’s right to privacy as enforced by personal encryption.

1 Comment

  1. Chuck said,

    January 26, 2012 at 10:24 am

    A wall safe can always be opened by force–or a burning bar. In other words, forcing the accused to open a safe only saves money and time and if refused, can be opened anyway. So there’s no real issue of self-incrimination–the material will be obtained somehow.

    On the other hand, decrypting a hard drive isn’t so easy if a strong backdoor-less cipher was used–it’s not just a matter of money. Any action, therefore, taken by the accused to make data accessible is, in fact, self-incrimination.

    The judge is way off base here and the ruling, if upheld, poses a nasty precedent.