Judge: PGP Passphrase is Private

A judge has ruled that a defendent cannot be forced to give up the passphrase for his encrypted hard drive.  Without this passphrase, authorities aren't able to decrypt his drive.  Now we know why U.K. authorities were asking for a backdoor into Bitlocker-encrypted Windows Vista PCs last year, right?

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerome Niedermeier ruled that a man charged with transporting child pornography on his laptop across the Canadian border has a Fifth Amendment right not to turn over the passphrase to prosecutors. The Fifth Amendment protects the right to avoid self-incrimination.

Niedermeier tossed out a grand jury's subpoena that directed Sebastien Boucher to provide "any passwords" used with his Alienware laptop. "Compelling Boucher to enter the password forces him to produce evidence that could be used to incriminate him," the judge wrote in an order dated November 29 that went unnoticed until this week. "Producing the password, as if it were a key to a locked container, forces Boucher to produce the contents of his laptop."

While we see the analogy here, it's also true that defendents can be forced to give up their DNA, or keys to lockers and other places.  Isn't this just a key?  Too many metaphors to keep straight?

On the other hand, music downloaders may be looking into PGP or Bitlocker even as we write this.

This is likely not the end of the story.

Tags:  judge, RAS