Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Can the gov’t force you to enter your computer password just so prosecutors can get information to use against you?

There is a fascinating story playing out in federal court here in Denver. The government’s prosecutors are trying to force a criminal defendant to enter her computer password so investigators can get information off her computer.

That information would likely be used against her in a bank-fraud case.

“Civil-liberties groups nationwide have taken notice, saying the case tests the strength of rights against self-incrimination in a digital world. Prosecutors, meanwhile, say that allowing criminal defendants to beat search warrants simply by encrypting their computers would make it impossible to obtain evidence in an age when clues are more likely held within a hard drive than a file cabinet.”

Farther down in the article, Ingold wrote:

“While the key is a physical thing and not protected by the Fifth Amendment, the Supreme Court has said, a combination — as the "expression of the contents of an individual's mind" — is.”

So, who is right? Can government investigators force you to enter your password in a computer just so they can access data and use it against you?