Eleventh Circuit Protects Right to Encrypt Data
February 24, 2012 6:20 AM Subscribe
The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled yesterday [.pdf] that a citizen's refusal to decrypt encrypted drives is protected by the Fifth Amendment, at least under some circumstances. In doing so it reversed the district court's contempt order entered against a John Doe defendant after he refused to decrypt his laptop hard drive and five external hard drives in response to a subpoena. This decision arguably conflicts with an earlier decision in which a district court in Vermont required a defendant to provide the password to his encrypted drives. The Eleventh Circuit distinguishes the earlier case on the basis that the government in that case knew of the existence of the files and simply couldn't access them, while in the recent case the government did not know the names of files or even whether or not files actually existed on the encrypted drives.
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