November 12

Law enforcement authorities in the UK now have the power to compel people to reveal decryption keys. If the request is refused, people could face up to five years in jail. The change comes as Part III of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) was activated as of October 1. Critics of the measure say that it is not only a violation of civil liberties – it could be used to force people to incriminate themselves and expose personal information unrelated to the investigation – but decryption keys can easily be forgotten. Additionally, people could pretend to have forgotten the key or have difficulty convincing a court that they have actually forgotten it. People have the option of surrendering their key or making it possible for authorities to view the decrypted material. Under the law, people who receive a notice requesting their decryption keys “can be prevented from telling anyone apart from their lawyer” about it. The reason Part III was not activated when RIPA was passed in 2000 is that encryption was not widely used at that time.