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Court: Fifth Amendment Protects Suspects from Having to Decrypt Hard Drives (+ my comments)

http://j.mp/yjQAPV (WSJ)

"In a ruling that could have broad ramifications for law enforcement, a
federal appeals court has ruled that a man under investigation for
child pornography isn't required to unlock his computer hard drives
for the federal government, because that act would amount to the man
offering testimony against himself."

- - -

The Journal of course discusses this case in their usual "even-handed"
manner -- note the graphic of the hooded man glaring at the reader,
holder a keyboard with gloved hands. And loaded language such as, "The
ruling could handcuff federal investigators ..." demonstrates the
usual News Corp. "balance" in action.

Be that as it may, it is true that this is not the end of the line for
such disputes. There are other cases in progress that will directly
contradict the reasoning of this decision, and the entire mess
ending up in front of the Supreme Court seems like a pretty good
bet.

But will it really matter in the long run? I'm doubtful. The
availability of powerful encryption systems that can be applied to
disk drives, even in the presence of hardware-based surveillance
mechanisms, will continue to expand. Weak key generation and poor key
management systems will gradually become the exception rather than
rule in many cases, and the power of technologies such as distributed
encryption and key systems -- which could make it impossible to
decrypt data without the cooperation of parties in multiple
jurisdictions, may become common.

Over time, whether one chooses to like it or not, governments may be
forced to accept the reality that increasing amounts of data will
remain beyond their abilities to successfully demand, regardless of
sanctions and pressures applied to defendants or other interested
parties.

-- Lauren --
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