Getting suspects to willingly unlock their devices may have just gotten a lot harder, at least in Pennsylvania.
When Joseph J. Davis was accused of the possession of child pornography and was asked to provide the password for his computer, he refused. The case went all the way to the PA Supreme Court where a 4-3 decision found that disclosing a password to the police is considered “testimony” and is protected by the Fifth Amendment.
Justice Debra Todd mentioned that “revealing a password is testimonial as it’s a ‘verbal communication’ that reveals your mind, not just a physical act like providing a blood sample.”
Electronic communication advocacy groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation approved of the decision, and wrote a friend-of-the-court briefing. The group shared that “people store a ‘wealth of deeply personal information’ on their devices, and that the government shouldn’t force people into a ‘no-win situation’ where they either have to reveal everything or resist a court order.”
This decision may be part of a growing trend. So far, similar decisions have been handed down in New Jersey and Indiana.
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Digital Forensics/Cybersecurity/Information Technology