Thursday, May 26, 2005
Encrypt more: I first used PGP -- Pretty Good Privacy -- back in the '90s when I was living in Washington State. I was getting a hand with my taxes from Hoystory the Elder (who had worked as a tax preparer in a previous life) and didn't feel at all comfortable e-mailing many of the things that you have to put down on your taxes in the open. Regular e-mail was like sending a postcard. Using PGP was like putting it in one of those security envelopes.
I've got PGP installed on my computers today, and it appears that could be used against me in a court of law.
A Minnesota appeals court has ruled that the presence of encryption software on a computer may be viewed as evidence of criminal intent.
Ari David Levie, who was convicted of taking illegal photographs of a nude 9-year-old girl, argued on appeal that the PGP encryption utility on his computer was irrelevant and should not have been admitted as evidence during his trial. PGP stands for Pretty Good Privacy and is sold by PGP Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif.
But the Minnesota appeals court ruled 3-0 that the trial judge was correct to let that information be used when handing down a guilty verdict.
"We find that evidence of appellant's Internet use and the existence of an encryption program on his computer was at least somewhat relevant to the state's case against him," Judge R.A. Randall wrote in an opinion dated May 3.
Let me start off by noting that the North Korean criminal justice system does not allow me to do the kind of things I'd like to do to scum like Levie.
Having acknowledged that, the court's view of encryption software is stuck in the 1940s. The folks over at Slashdot have had a very interesting and informative discussion about the issue, and the court's decision appears to be a little out of whack. What disturbs me is that the mere presence of an encryption program on can be used by the government against a defendant. If you've got a safe in your home -- even if you have nothing stonen in it -- could it be used as evidence if you're suspected of a burglary?
The use of encryption software is obviously still outside of the realm of the typical computer user -- that needs to change.