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3.21. Can I be forced to reveal my pass phrase in any legal proceedings? (PGP)




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This article is from the PGP FAQ, by Jeff Licquia jalicqui@prairienet.org with numerous contributions by others.

3.21. Can I be forced to reveal my pass phrase in any legal proceedings? (PGP)

Gary Edstrom reported the following in earlier versions of this FAQ:

- -----
The following information applies only to citizens of the United
States in U.S. Courts. The laws in other countries may vary. Please
see the disclaimer at the top of part 1.

There have been several threads on Internet concerning the question of
whether or not the fifth amendment right about not being forced to
give testimony against yourself can be applied to the subject of being
forced to reveal your pass phrase. Not wanting to settle for the many
conflicting opinions of armchair lawyers on usenet, I asked for input
from individuals who were more qualified in the area. The results
were somewhat mixed. There apparently has NOT been much case history
to set precedence in this area. So if you find yourself in this
situation, you should be prepared for a long and costly legal fight on
the matter. Do you have the time and money for such a fight? Also
remember that judges have great freedom in the use of "Contempt of
Court". They might choose to lock you up until you decide to reveal
the pass phrase and it could take your lawyer some time to get you
out. (If only you just had a poor memory!)
- -----

 

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