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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Prosecutors Demand Laptop Password in Violation of Fifth Amendment

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a federal court in Colorado today to block the government's attempt to force a woman to enter a password into an encrypted laptop, arguing in an amicus brief that it would violate her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

A defendant in this case, Ramona Fricosu, is accused of fraudulent real estate transactions. During the investigation, the government seized an encrypted laptop from the home she shares with her family, and then asked the court to compel Fricosu to type the password into the computer or turn over a decrypted version of her data. But EFF told the court today that the demand is contrary to the Constitution, forcing Fricosu to become a witness against herself.

'Decrypting the data on the laptop can be, in and of itself, a testimonial act -- revealing control over a computer and the files on it,' said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. 'Ordering the defendant to enter an encryption password puts her in the situation the Fifth Amendment was designed to prevent: having to choose between incriminating herself, lying under oath, or risking contempt of court.'

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