Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Judge forces defendant to decrypt laptop

A judge in Colorado yesterday ordered a defendant to decrypt her laptops hard drive. It was at the prosecution's request, and is now adding more fire to the ongoing debate about consumer technology and the 5th amendment.

The defendant, Ramona Fricosu is facing charges of band fraud. This case has been here since 2010. As part of this investigation, authorities seized her Toshiba Satellite M305 laptop. Ramona's legal team refused to decrypt the laptop, on the grounds that it violated her 5th amendment rights to avoid self incrimination. On Monday, though, Judge Robert Blackburn ruled against her, arguing that the prosecution retained the right to access her device, as stipulated by the All Writs Act. It is a law that requires mobile operators to comply with federal surveillance.

"I conclude that the Fifth Amendment is not implicated by requiring production of the unencrypted contents of the Toshiba Satellite M305 laptop computer," Blackburn wrote, adding that there was strong evidence to suggest that Fricosu's computer contained information pertinent to the case. Fricosu's lawyer, Phil Dubois, is hoping to obtain a stay on the ruling, in the hopes of taking the case to an appeals court. "I think it's a matter of national importance," Dubois explained. "It should not be treated as though it's just another day in Fourth Amendment litigation."

It is not known if Dubois is going to get his appeal, but consumers are keeping an eye on this case. The Supreme Court has not weighed in on this case....yet.

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