Judge rules in favor of hacktivist Love
Tue 10 May 2016
A judge in Westminster ruled today that alleged hacktivist Lauri Love cannot be forced to provide encryption keys to the National Crime Authority (NCA). This move has been called a “victory for all who use encryption in the UK” and a “great decision for privacy and personal freedom”.
The NCA’s request was widely regarded as an attempt to circumvent the Regulatory of Investigative Powers Act of 2000 (RIPA), which specifically legislates police power to compel subjects to hand over encryption keys. The NCA originally tried to force Love to turn over encryption keys under RIPA in 2014 but were unsuccessful. So Love, whose property was seized two years ago, made an application to have it returned under the 1897 Police Property Act. In response, the NCA attempted to legally force decryption under the same act.
The NCA argued, in the ruling documents, that they could only ascertain the contents of the devices if Love was forced to provide the encryption key. The district judge was not persuaded by this argument, saying, “The case management powers of the court are not to be used to circumvent specific legislation that has been passed in order to deal with the disclosure sought.” Legal experts have noted that this case represents a civil action being put forth in a magistrate’s court, which normally only deals with criminal issues.
Additionally, the judge in this case reiterated that requests of this nature should be governed by RIPA, and not by property legislations. The judge’s decision in this case is viewed as a triumph for privacy regulations, and as successful avoidance of setting a dangerous precedent in UK privacy laws.
Love’s legal troubles are not over, however. He is facing extradition next month to appear in court in the US, to answer charges [PDF] of “gaining unauthorized access to protected computers and obtaining sensitive and confidential information stored on those computers, including names, social security numbers, and credit card numbers.”
Love, who said that he was pleased with the decision outside court today, will reportedly be writing a regular column for byline.com about privacy and digital freedom.
The NCA would comment only that “proceedings are ongoing.”