The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has decided that if a court orders you to decrypt a file you must do so, even if you will end up incriminating yourself.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial ruled that a criminal defendant could be compelled to decrypt the contents of his laptops.
The case centres on a lawyer who was arrested in 2009 for allegedly participating in a mortgage fraud scheme.
Leon Gelfgatt admitted to Massachusetts state police that he had done work with a company called Baylor Holdings and that he encrypted his communications and the hard drives of all of his computers.He refused to decrypt the drives.
The court considered the question of whether the act of entering the password to decrypt the contents of a computer was an act of self-incrimination, thereby violating Gelfgatt’s Fifth Amendment rights.
However the court decided that simply knowing the password did not imply that Gelfgatt created the documents on the encrypted machines. Nor did it imply that Gelfgatt had sole control of them at all times.
The MJSC’s ruling is a blow for privacy advocates and others who have asserted the right to refuse to decrypt digital devices.