As an aside to Graybeard’s interesting post on encrypting communications: As I was reading the post, it reminded me of some court decisions that have come down the road concerning encryption and criminal evidence.
The first one is over a child porn case here in Florida, where law enforcement agents pursuing a child pornography investigation
tracked a man suspected of sharing child porn. After obtaining a search warrant, they raided the
room, seizing computers and hard drives with nearly five terabytes of
total storage capacity. However, they soon hit a roadblock: Portions of
the hard drives had been encrypted and were unreadable without a
password. The suspect refused to decrypt the drives, and a federal
district court in Florida held him in contempt and ordered him
incarcerated.An appeals court overturned the conviction, claiming that forcing him to provide his password violated his fifth amendment rights.
So the court instead pulls a fast one: they require you to turn over the unencrypted files. Failure to comply means that you stay in jail indefinitely: you don’t get out until you give them what they want.
This places you in a quandry, if you have been accused of a crime and the evidence of that crime is encrypted on your computer: you can rot in jail forever, or you can turn over the evidence and rot in jail for the rest of your life.
Of course, the judge cannot hold a person in contempt if the owner attempts to comply, but for some reason the drive or its encryption is corrupted and cannot be decrypted or read.