I got my monthly EFF newsletter email earlier today, and a couple of things caught my eye. Some pretty important stuff, so I’m gonna tell you about it here:
1. Appeals Court Upholds Constitutional Right Against Forced Decryption. Basically, the FBI seized laptops and disk drives of this guy, but couldn’t access the data thereon because it was encrypted with Truecrypt. A grand jury ordered the man to produce the unencrypted contents of the drives, but he refused, invoking his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. The court held him in contempt and sent him to jail. But the EFF filed an amicus brief, arguing that the man had a valid Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, and that the government’s attempt to force him to decrypt the data was unconstitutional. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, ruling that the act of decrypting data is testimonial and therefore protected by the Fifth Amendment. Score one for Freedom, right? Well, it’s good for the Americanos: but unfortunately, since 2007, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act in the UK (RIPA) has allowed a person to be compelled to reveal a decryption key. Refusal can earn someone a five-year jail term. How in hell can a country that keeps uncharged prisoners in Gitmo for over 10 years and gasses its own citizens on a regular basis embrace liberty better than us Brits? Please, answer me in Comments. It’s like that film Brazil, or a Franz Kafka story.
2. This one paints us Europeans in a better light (I say us Europeans, because unfortunately us Brits will do whatever America and the rich want us to do, including embarking on illegal wars that lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians and leave Middle East countries unbelievably unstable and wrought with sickening sectarian violence). This particular happy story is about the European Court of Justice’s decision that
social networks cannot be required to monitor and filter their users’ communications to prevent copyright infringement of music and movies. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) found that imposing a broad filtering obligation on social networks would require active monitoring of users’ files in violation of EU law and could undermine citizens’ freedom of expression.
The ECJ found that forcing an ISP to install a filtering system that would identify and prevent its users from making available any potentially copyright infringing files would require “active observation” of the ISP’s users. Implementing such a system would fall afoul of the key principle in Article 15 of the EU e-Commerce Directive, which prohibits EU member states from imposing a general obligation on ISPs and hosting services to monitor information they transmit or store, or to actively seek facts or circumstances that indicate illegal activity.
The EFF note that the dreadfully-nigh ACTA, a wide-ranging treaty that will force laws on us in a backroom-dealing way that bypasses democracy, also seeks to make Article 15 meaningless. Will the ECJ decision affect at all the approaching behemoth? Or will our governments, all round the world, continue to obey the dictates of commerce rather than the wishes of their electorates? I think I know the answer already; but your Comments are, again, truly welcome.