Say you’re arrested for crimes you committed, and the police is trying to access your computer in order to find incriminating evidence. There are a number of encryption softwares out there, including DataProtecto, TrueCrypt, and Cypherix, which can encrypt your computer, but can the police force you to decrypt it, so they can access it? There are many softwares out there, such as the one provided by Social Password Finder, or instructions provided on Ask.com, that give instructions to even novices, on trying to hack Gmail passwords, or computer passwords.
In the past few years, this question has been answered.
A pair of federal appeals court decisions, issued on February 23, clarified these questions.
- If police know what you encrypted, they can make you decrypt it
- If police don’t know what you encrypted, they can’t make you decrypt it
For example, if you admit to someone there is incriminating evidence on your computer, then the authorities can ask you to decrypt it, and it’s not in violation of your Fifth amendment rights. If they do not know what’s on the computer, then they cannot force you.