January 25, 2012
Fifth Amendment Doesn’t Protect Your Hard Drive
According to a new ruling, the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. constitution does not protect your hard drive from being used as evidence.
Ramona Fricosu, a Colorado defendant in a mortgage scam case, argued that the Fifth Amendment's privilege against self-incrimination protected her from having to disclose the password to her hard drive.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties organization that filed an amicus brief on Fricosu's behalf, said she should not have to be compelled to give up her password because it would violate her Fifth Amendment right.
However, a federal judge's ruling forced her to decrypt the laptop so that its contents could be inspected.
"I find and conclude that the Fifth Amendment is not implicated by requiring production of the unencrypted contents of the Toshiba Satellite M305 laptop computer," the judge said in his ruling Tuesday, as reported by CNET.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said in court documents that if Fricosu was not ordered to unlock her computer, it would result in a "concession to her and potential criminals (be it in child exploitation, national security, terrorism, financial crimes or drug trafficking cases) that encrypting all inculpatory digital evidence will serve to defeat the efforts of law enforcement officers to obtain such evidence through judicially authorized search warrants, and thus make their prosecution impossible.”
Fricosu was given until February 21 to comply with the order given by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Blackburn.
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