You know about the your right to remain silent, right? Right now one judge is trying to define the line where that right no longer applies, which means the mind police might get some expanded powers in Britain.
Seeing how this is happening in Britain, I'm not surprised. The citizens of that country are willing to accept untold amounts of surveillance (in the form of cameras everywhere in major cities, and I do mean everywhere) and ad hoc checkpoints along the road sides.
Anyway here's the scoop: A law group reports that two men were charged with allegedly helping a guy move from one house to another. Normally that's no big deal - but in this case the man whom they helped move was under court order to not move without court permission due to some offense he committed. So the two helpers were charged for helping move the man.
Sometime after their arrest their computer was seized. The police discovered that at least some of the data on the computer was encrypted. So the two were told "that they cannot rely on their right to silence to refuse to give British police a computer password."
The matter centers around the PIN for encryption keys. Police want the key to decrypt the data. But according to the report, the owner says that "forcing them to hand over the key to encrypted data on their computers would be forcing them to incriminate themselves. Defendants have a right to silence and to refuse to divulge information which would act as evidence against them."
The report also states that "The authorities can demand disclosure of such keys because in the eyes of the law the information on the computers is already in the possession of the police. An order for password disclosure can be made, said Mr Justice Penry-Davey in the Court of Appeal, 'no alternative, reasonable method of gaining access to it or making it intelligible is available'."
Wait a second... ... isn't that about like the police grabbing your head and saying "your head is in our possession, now you must tell us everything you know!"
Anyway, in the good ole' UK anyone that doesn't fork over their password "could be jailed for up to two years or up to five years in cases involving national security."
The issue here is basically that what's in your head is your private info. But, if you let that info out (such as putting info into a computer file) then in eyes of the legal eagles (or vultures, depending on your perspective) suddenly you are no longer in possession of that info and thus it's fair game for anyone.
Personally, I think that encrypting data is tantamount to saying "this info is mine, I can't remember all this because as with most humans my memory is limited, so I'm going to create an extension of my memory using external means, and therefore I assert that the extension is in my possession because without my assistance you can access the data it contains."
Sometimes I think that I should have been an attorney...