I am normally not a nut job when it comes to privacy issues.  It may be because of my background in computers but to be blunt, if you think you have privacy in any country you are in be it a huge Western Democracy or a Third World Dictatorship you are delusional.  If you breath, use a credit card, a bank, or go online your ass is tracked.  Travel to anywhere outside your home country and you are tracked even further.  I am not sure of statistics for other countries but Americans spend 80% of their time on camera when outside of their home.  Essentially what I am saying is you aren’t breathing without someone knowing how to track you relatively easily unless you start wearing tinfoil on your head, switch to cash, and then move to the nearest mountainside that isn’t owned by you and live off the land.

With all that said, here in America you are allowed the 5th Amendment Right that said that you can avoid self incrimination by not testifying against yourself or assisting authorities by providing information to them.  In easier to understand terms, you had the right to keep your mouth shut and not say a word other than basic information that would be publicly available and verifiable.  So if you shot someone and the police asked you if you shot them, you have the right not to answer regardless if you are holding the smoking gun and have blood splatter all over you.  This assumption works in regard to encrypted data on computers.  You got your porn collection for women in monkey suits doing evil thinks to men with bananas and you know you are a freak, you can encrypt that data with a password so only you can access it and basically you hide your embarrassment from the rest of the word knowing about your fetish.

Many travelers have used this to hide sensitive data from the eyes of Customs Officials around the globe and here in the US it’s been tested more than a few times.  They can’t force you to give up the password, instead they can impound the laptop and make your life hell but thats about all they can do.  I’m sure they can happily find some other charges to mess with you but by ruling if you were to encrypt data that would incriminate you in a crime the court said it could not be compelled from you under the 5th Amendment. This all just changed.

Wired is reporting a story that should scare you to death.

A judge on Monday ordered a Colorado woman to decrypt her laptop computer so prosecutors can use the files against her in a criminal case.

The defendant, accused of bank fraud, had unsuccessfully argued that being forced to do so violates the Fifth Amendment’s protection against compelled self-incrimination.

“I conclude that the Fifth Amendment is not implicated by requiring production of the unencrypted contents of the Toshiba Satellite M305 laptop computer,” Colorado U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn ruled Monday.

That just made a legal precedent and thats a bad thing.  The usual groups are starting to get worried and I am sure they are will start filling court documents looking to overturn this ruling to prevent what they view (me too) a violation of the 5th Amendement to avoid self incrimination.  There won’t be a ruling for months because this will end up in the Supreme Court who haven’t given a definitive ruling regarding data encryption and the compelling of passwords.  So it will be interesting to watch on which way this will go.  The scary outcome will be that you will be required to provide the password to unencrypt your data regardless of self incrimination that means those photos you don’t want everyone to see of yourself doing something with a lady of dubious virtue are now available encrypted or otherwise to the Border Officers.

Watch this case because it may have far reaching impact on everyone.  The last thing you want is someone getting into your encrypted data just because they can based on a uniform they wear be it your private monger picture collection or personal documents that you deem to be private.