Crypto and the Cops: the Law of Key Disclosure and Forced Decryption

Presented at DEF CON 20 (2012), July 27, 2012, 2 p.m. (50 minutes)

Can the government force you to turn over your encryption passphrase or decrypt your data? The law surrounding police attempts to force decryption is developing at breakneck speed, with two major court decisions this year alone. This talk will start off with an in-depth explanation of the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, its origins, and how it applies to government attempts to force disclosure of keys or decrypted versions of data in the United States. We'll also discuss law enforcement authority to demand passphrases and decryption of data stored with third parties, and survey key disclosure laws in other countries.


  • Marcia Hofmann - Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation
    Marcia Hofmann is a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, where she works on a broad range of digital civil liberties issues including computer security, electronic privacy, and free expression. She currently focuses on computer crime and EFF's Coders' Rights Project, which promotes innovation and protects the rights of curious tinkerers and researchers in their cutting-edge exploration of technology. Prior to joining EFF, Marcia was staff counsel and director of the Open Government Project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).