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Submission + - Encryption passphrase deemed protected by the 5th

Takichi writes: CNET is reporting on a case of a man accused of transporting child pornography across the Canadian border. A federal judge in Vermont has ruled that prosecutors can't force the defendant to divulge his PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) passphrase. The ruling was given on the basis that the passphrase is protected under the 5th amendment to the United States Constitution (protection against self-incrimination).

There two arguments for and against this are the following:
  • Since the passphrase exists only within the defendant's memory, demanding the passphrase would be an act of compelling a defendant to divulge the contents of their mind — an act that is protected against.
  • The passphrase is more like a key to a safe, which can a defendant can be lawfully compelled to produce. Also, since the actual passphrase isn't relevant to the case, but the evidence it unlocks is, immunity from divulging the passphrase should be limited.
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Encryption passphrase deemed protected by the 5th

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