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Encryption as Evidence of Criminal Intent

From Bruce Schneier's blog (syndicated on LJ as bruce_schneier):
Encryption as Evidence of Criminal Intent

An appeals court in Minnesota has ruled that the presence of encryption software on a computer may be viewed as evidence of criminal intent.

I am speechless.
Read Bruce's blog entry and comments for more discussion on the topic.

I don't know if I'm speechless or not, but I am more than a little concerned. I'll have to look into the specifics a little deeper, 'cause it might not be as troubling as it appears. For example, one of the comments on Bruce's blog entry attempts to put it in perspective:
This really isn't that big of a deal. This is the same as finding a guy in a car, driving around a residential neighborhood slowly, and finding a ski mask, lock picking tools, and a flashlight in his car. Everything is legal, but may be admitted in court to try to prove criminal intent.

One piece of evidence alone will not help a prosecutor very much, but if you can get enough pieces of the puzzle together, the picture becomes alot clearer. FWIW
Maybe. I can already see that it will be very easy to start down the slippery slope on either side of this argument.

Comments

bodnej
May. 26th, 2005 03:47 pm (UTC)
Doesn't sound like hearsay to me:

The court didn't say that police had unearthed any encrypted files or how it would view the use of standard software like OS X's FileVault. Rather, Levie's conviction was based on the in-person testimony of the girl who said she was paid to pose nude, coupled with the history of searches for "Lolitas" in Levie's Web browser.

The "Lolitas" bit is circumstantial, yes, but it establishes motive, and we've got direct testimony here.
prester_scott
May. 26th, 2005 03:53 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry, you're right: the girl's statements are testimony, not hearsay. I had my terms wrong.

But if we're being told the whole story in this article, that means he was convicted on three pieces of evidence:
* a young girl's testimony
* circumstantial evidence: "Lolitas"
* circumstantial evidence: PGP

Had I been on the jury, I think I'd have voted to acquit.
arcticturtle
May. 26th, 2005 04:21 pm (UTC)
A PGP key? Because... because criminal intent is the obvious implication of a desire for privacy? That is a scary attitude to base legal decisions on.

And do I understand that the no actual pictures the guy allegedly took were found? That seems like a gaping hole in the evidence, for which I would expect a darn good explanation from the prosecution.

I'm with prester_scott. This is scary.

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