Scrambling for Safety 8
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The Scrambling for Safety 8 focused on the UK Home Office consultations over plans to give the police powers to require the production of decryption keys and of plaintext. The Home Office produced a draft code of practice on government access to "communications data" - phone numbers and e-mail addresses contacted, web sites visited, locations of mobile phones etc.
About 100 representatives of the Government, industry, academia and civil society discussed privacy and security issues related to these consultations.
The police representatives used the event to defend their draft. They considered the encryption was used more and more to hide evidences and argued that these new provisions might be used only in connection with other evidences against suspects. Detective Chief Inspector Matt Sarti stated that there were 200 computers in police forensic centres with encrypted data that could have crime evidences on them. Also he claimed that there were cases when alleged paedophiles could not be charged because there were encrypted files on their computer that could not be read. He said: "We have to balance the right to private life with the right to private life of victims and the right to life of victims."
On the other hand, other speakers such as Caspar Bowden claimed that the draft code of conduct did not have any guidance on a balance between the right to privacy or the rights of the victims and the law enforcement authorities' interests. He pointed out that new malware could be created in order to change the password or the encryption key on different machines, thus making innocent users publishable. Bowden also questioned the possibility to identify a genuine loss of a password and reminded that the threat of a jail sentence in these cases could be arbitrary. He also explained the possible use by the criminals of viruses (VAMP - Virus Ate My Password) against themselves as a reason for not revealing the encryption key.
Other participants also raised questions on the present code of conduct having good standards for the protection of fundamental rights or on the effectiveness of the decryption programs.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury from the House of Lords concluded : "You do not secure the liberty of our country and value of our democracy by undermining them. That's the road to hell."
Scrambling for Safety 8 - Agenda and presentations (14.08.2006)
Will RIPA lead to an infestation of Vamp-ires? (15.08.2006)
Police decryption powers 'flawed' (15.08.2006)