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The Courts

Submission + - Encrypted Laptop Poses Legal Dilemma 1

Reservoir Hill writes: "When Sebastien Boucher stopped at the U.S.-Canadian border, agents who inspected his laptop said they found files containing child pornography but when they tried to examine the images after his arrest, they were stymied by PGP's password-protected encryption program. The government wants Boucher to give up the password, but doing so could violate his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination by revealing the contents of the files. "This has been the case we've all been expecting," says Michael Froomkin, a professor at the University of Miami School of Law. "As encryption grows, it was inevitable there'd be a case where the government wants someone's keys." A grand jury subpoena to force Boucher to reveal the password was quashed by federal Magistrate Jerome Niedermeier. The government has appealed the ruling and law professor Orin Kerr says the distinction that favors the government in Boucher's case is that he initially cooperated and let the agent look at some of the laptop's contents. "The government can't make you give up your encryption password in most cases. But if you tell them you have a password and that it unlocks that computer, then at that point you no longer have the privilege," says Kerr."

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