Feeds

Two convicted for refusal to decrypt data

Up to five years in jail after landmark prosecutions

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Two people have been successfully prosecuted for refusing to provide authorities with their encryption keys, resulting in landmark convictions that may have carried jail sentences of up to five years.

The government said today it does not know their fate.

The power to force people to unscramble their data was granted to authorities in October 2007. Between 1 April, 2008 and 31 March this year the first two convictions were obtained.

The disclosure was made by Sir Christopher Rose, the government's Chief Surveillance Commissioner, in his recent annual report.

The former High Court judge did not provide details of the crimes being investigated in the case of either individual - neither of whom were necessarily suspects - nor of the sentences they received.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it was unable to track down information on the legal milestones without the defendants' names.

Failure to comply with a section 49 notice carries a sentence of up to two years jail plus fines. Failure to comply during a national security investigation carries up to five years jail.

Sir Christopher reported that all of the 15 section 49 notices served over the year - including the two that resulted in convictions - were in "counter terrorism, child indecency and domestic extremism" cases.

The Register has established that the woman served with the first section 49 notice, as part of an animal rights extremism investigation, was not one of those convicted for failing to comply. She was later convicted and jailed on blackmail charges.

Of the 15 individuals served, 11 did not comply with the notices. Of the 11, seven were charged and two convicted. Sir Christopher did not report whether prosecutions failed or are pending against the five charged but not convicted in the period covered by his report.

To obtain a section 49 notice, police forces must first apply to the National Technical Assistance Centre (NTAC). Although its web presence suggests NTAC is part of the Home Office's Office of Security and Counter Terrorism, it is in fact located at the government's secretive Cheltenham code breaking centre, GCHQ.

GCHQ didn't immediately respond to a request for further information on the convictions. The Home Office said NTAC does not know the outcomes of the notices it approves.

NTAC approved a total of 26 applications for a section 49 notice during the period covered by the Chief Surveillance Commissioner's report, which does not say if any applications were refused. The judicial permission necessary to serve the notices was then sought in 17 cases. Judges did not refuse permission in any case.

One police force obtained and served a section 49 notice without NTAC approval while acting on "incorrect information from the Police National Legal Database", according to Sir Christopher. The action was dropped before it reached court. ®

Readers with further information about the convictions can contact the reporter in confidence here.

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

More from The Register

next story
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
UK.gov's Open Source switch WON'T get rid of Microsoft, y'know
What do you mean, we've ditched Redmond in favour of IBM?!
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Putin: Crack Tor for me and I'll make you a MILLIONAIRE
Russian Interior Ministry offers big pile o' roubles for busting pro-privacy browser
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.