FROM today it is a crime to refuse to decrypt data for coppers investigating a crime.
Under part three, Section 49 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) if Inspector Knacker of the Yard knocks on your door and wants to have a snuffle on your hard drive and finds a blob of encrypted code he can make you decode it.
If you refuse, and the copper is investigating acts of terrorism, you could be eating five years of porridge at her Majesty's Pleasure. If it just happens to be an ordinary crime that the copper is investigating you could be up for two years jailtime.
There are a few loopholes. The data must be stored on a UK server or a Johnny Foreigner server which happens to be in the country, perhaps soaking up a bit of sun.
If foreign data is passing down down the Interent, the coppers are not allowed to intercept it.
The main problem is not that the law forces people to decrypt stuff, but rather the coppers have the right to demand encryption keys if their investigation requires it. This could really put the wind up all the financial institutions.
International bankers would be unlikely to want to bring master keys to Blighty if they could be seized as part of legitimate police operations. One bent copper means they could lose shedloads of cash.
The Home Office claims that not only will the law help catch terrorists and criminals so hard they can bounce bullets off their chests, it will also help catch pedophiles.
However if you are a pedophile and you have shedloads of encrypted nastiness on your hard drive it would be better to do two years in chokey and be done under a computer crime rather than a sex offence. µ
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