Minnesota court takes dim view of encryption

Erpo erpo41 at hotpop.com
Thu May 26 10:27:33 CEST 2005

On Wed, 2005-05-25 at 16:11 -0500, Shatadal wrote:
> From
> http://news.com.com/Minnesota+court+takes+dim+view+of+encryption/2100-1030_3-5718978.html
> "A Minnesota appeals court has ruled that the presence of encryption
> software on a computer may be viewed as evidence of criminal intent."

That bit from the article appears to disagree with, or at least highly
exaggerate, what it says later on:

        Levie's conviction was based on the in-person testimony of the
        girl who said she was paid to pose nude, coupled with the
        history of searches for "Lolitas" in Levie's Web browser.

I think this is the core of the decision:

        Ari David Levie [...] argued on appeal that the PGP encryption
        utility on his computer was irrelevant and should not have been
        admitted as evidence during his trial.
        "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.

It sounds like they're arguing over whether or not the prosecution is
allowed to tell the jury that Levie had cryptography software on his
computer, rather than whether or not that fact "may be used as evidence
of criminal intent." Then again, I'm not a lawyer.

Here's my favorite part:

        The court didn't say [...] how it would view the use of standard
        software like OS X's FileVault.

I think that's the clearest, most compact set of instructions for
success to the cryptography community I've ever seen. Right now, the use
of crytpography by regular desktop users is almost so uncommon that
someone who has an encryption program or who transfers encrypted data
might as well be shouting out, "I'm doing something I don't want other
people to know about."

Cryptographic capabilities must be integrated into every popular OS and
application in such a way as to make it automatic and easy to encrypt
everything, no matter how mundane, from IMs to downloaded device
drivers. Once everyone is doing it, the people who really need privacy
can have it.

At the same time, there's a warning about a conflict between two
important social values. The first is the high priority given to
preserving free speech and, by necessity, anonymous and private speech.
The second is the disapproval directed at people who think, do, or say
certain things that aren't a component of "normal" behavior.

Both values have their place, but the cryptography promoter must take
care to note that while "preserving free speech in all its forms" and
"preventing people from posessing or trading child pornography" are
mutually exclusive goals, "preserving free speech in all its forms" and
"prosecuting sexual abuse" are certainly not.

My two bits,


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