Can the government force you to decrypt data?

This week the ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Commonwealth v. Gelfgatt, a case about encryption that goes before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on Nov. 5. The basic question we're interested in is whether a defendant can be forced to decrypt his electronic files. Along with Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the ACLU says no.

As ACLU of Massachusetts staff attorney Jessie Rossman says, "Our brief explains that the right against self-incrimination protects defendants from being made to decrypt their own files. Because encryption scrambles data, encrypted data is like a document that has been shredded. Even if the government can make a defendant turn over the shreds, it can’t make the defendant reassemble them."

Blog: Mass high court set to rule on whether state can force you to decrypt your drive | Legal Brief

Media

6.26.14

Mass. Supreme Court: Defendant Must Decrypt Computers for Police
The Wall Street Journal

6.25.14

Massachusetts high court says accused criminal must decrypt computers for police
Chicago Tribune

Massachusetts high court orders suspect to decrypt his computers
Ars Technica

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