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Get rid of the forced decryption law

Comment 28th July 2010

The law that requires a citizen to give up encryption keys with threat of a jail sentence should be scrapped.

Why does this matter?

. In a society where identity theft and cyber criminals is rife and increasing, we should be encouraging our citizens to encrypt absolutely everything. In such a society there's a very real chance that citizen could have a file on their computer for which they no longer remember the password.

It's very easy to frame someone with this law.In the past, to frame someone of a serious offence, one could plant cocaine, a gun or maybe child pornography, but the framer would have to obtain these harder to get items first, and in doing so they can leave a trail which can be used in a defence. Not so with encryption. One could plan a photo of a cup on someones computer and it could land them in jail for serious time as the law, this is because the law does not require eany evidence at all to convict, but rather the fear of evidence and the law does not consider forgetting or not knowing a password as a defence.

Taking an extreme case of a policeman wanting to frame someone, now it is easier than it ever was before because obtaining the framing material and planting it is trivially easy. It doesn't even have to be planted at the person's house because the computers are seized. Framed citizen would have absolutely no defence at all against this. This is a serious corrupt police tool.

A real terrorist or even child pornographer would also choose jail time by not providing decryption keys because a 35 year jail term for terrorism is much bigger than a 5 year jail term for not handing over the key. Same for the child pornographer.

In fact, the first people to be convicted of this law was not a terrorist or child pornographer but a schizophrenic/paranoid IT person that was a arrest for bringing in an engine-less toy rocket in the country on the eurostar. The terrorism charge was shown to have no substance but due to his mental health condition, he refused to give up encryption keys and was sentenced to a year in jail. He was enventually sectioned to a mental hospital, but not before first being thrown in jail. The police that caused a mental health patient to do jail time instead of being helped when involved in nothing in the slighted illegal should be placed under serious disciplinary action as this is a huge travesty of justice and just a taste of things to come.

A law that convicts without any evidence at all but merely the fear of evidence deserves no place in a democracy and should be pulled immediately.

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