UK teenager jailed for not disclosing password

UK teenager jailed for not disclosing password

Summary: We all have things to hide, even legal or legitimate things. But would you give up your computer password when asked by the police, even if you know you didn't do something wrong?

TOPICS: Legal, Privacy

A UK teenager, under suspicion by police countering online child sexual abuse and exploitation, has been jailed for 16 weeks for not disclosing his password to investigators.

Police were unable to crack the password, thought to be of a 50 characters which even after the conviction they still cannot access.

Unlike the US which has seemingly combined a number of existing acts of law into one giant, consolidated act like the Patriot Act, the UK still has many acts which focus on various elements of crime and often overlap.

The 2004 Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIPA) Act is a broad ranging set of laws which authorise the interception of communications, surveillance either direct, covert or intrusive, and the access to data which broadly covers online activity by a broad range of UK public bodies and organisations. It's one of the most powerful acts of law we have in the UK.

Part III(53) makes it an offence to hinder a criminal investigation by not disclosing a password to an encryption method, which may or may not uncover evidence to incriminate the subject. In effect, passwords in the eyes of the UK law are useless because if law enforcement want to see something but can't, the law can be further used against you.

There are two arguments here. Forget the fact that this young man worked in a fast food restaurant; think about the wider picture.

Of course, if one does not disclose something it could be perceived that the subject has something to hide. That is a given, although as we all know, we all have a great deal to hide - even from the authorities. Even liberalised attitudes today can be personally contentious, such as sexuality, religion, salary or political attitudes. One could even argue the point, in most cases, the aforementioned are rarely a crux in a criminal trial and are often irrelevant or negated by forensics.

The other is privacy. As citizens to the respective country we live in, there are limits. Salaries are disclosed to the tax offices, political attitudes are expressed in the (albeit, secret) ballot box, and sexuality must be to a greater or lesser extent provided in certain medical areas such as giving blood.

But in terms of industry secrets and corporate affairs, one could easily argue that this is why encryption and the BlackBerry were even created: to keep secrets, well, secret.

Would you give up your password to the police, even if you knew you were innocent? Or would you stick to your guns and refuse, face a possible conviction but retain your 'rights to privacy'? Leave a TalkBack.

Topics: Legal, Privacy

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: UK teenager jailed for not disclosing password

    I would retain my right to privacy. There comes a point where you have to stand up for yourself.
    • We are talking about a pedofile here

      @rrogacki@... His right for privacy went out the door when he became a sexual predator.
      • Nope - in the USA we are innocent until proven guilty

        glad ur not a lawyer
      • RE: UK teenager jailed for not disclosing password

        @wackoae Or not. Nothing was proved. They want him to disclose his password to prove it AND THEN judge him.
      • RE: UK teenager jailed for not disclosing password


        'under suspicion' != 'guilty of' His conviction was for refusing to provide the password. In the U.S., I would refuse, and then sue.
      • libel

        @wackoae You just libeled the kid. I hope you don't live in the UK, where libel is harshly penalized.
      • We are talking about an _alleged_ pedophile. Or is it even alleged?

        Have the police even formally alleged that this guy is a peodphile? Or do they need him to cough up his password to they can have some evidence to allege it?

        In the United States we believe people are innocent until proven guilty and should not be forced to provide evidence against themselves. These are Constitutional rights. It's too bad, in my mind, that a progressive Western nation like the UK doesn't get these elementary aspects of human rights.
      • RE: UK teenager jailed for not disclosing password

        @wackoae Not proven. So you have no argument. <br><br>Anyway, how do you know they kid didn't download 2,000 songs and is worried he may end up in debtors prison from the RIA??? I absolutely would have to take the jail time before I would pay the 16th century penalties assessed by judges for RIA violations!!! For some people they may as well shoot them. If I were told I had to pay $3000 per song for as little as 50 songs I would have to leave the country over a b.s. crime with a penalty like that. <br><br>I too am glad you're not a lawyer.
      • RE: UK teenager jailed for not disclosing password

        @wackoae Perhaps someone should accuse you of being a sexual predator, do you think? Just to accuse one of such a thing guilty or not, ruins a person life. Think before you start accusing anyone of such a crime, it far more serious than name calling.
      • RE: UK teenager jailed for not disclosing password

        I had thought that in the UK, it was opposite, you are guilty until you prove your innocents, if someone does not prove they are innocent there is the assumption of guilt. I don't know maybe they changed that.

        As far as disclosing my password, sure, why not. You may be so up tight and think you are idealizing the founding fathers principals by not but are you really? There is a right to privacy for sure but if you do not care what they see why use that right? Just because you have the right to bear arms does not mean you have to excercise it, the right to free speech does not mean you should run down the street screaming how much you hate something, or someone.

        I say lets not over use our rights, always make sure they are there, never compromise on that but not letting the police do their job because you think it is your duty as a red blooded American to use your right to privacy when ever you can just doesn't seem right. The worst part is most of these people that would not give the police their password would probably give it to a stranger in Nigeria for the promise that they will reap millions from a fallen prince or something, or better yet, will read their password to a tech support dude on their cell phone in the middle of starbucks.

        I say get some context of the situation.
      • WOW you are a Foresnic god

        All I can say is WOW! You have revolutionized forensic science.

        With no education in the area of forensics you have managed to by pass generations of proven police work and investigation techniques to form an untested but certainly undeniable method to proving ones guilt. You sir are a true forensics god.

        You should write a book on this and become wealthy. You could call it ?How To Win Over Government Officials and Help Convict Friends and Family?. You could use the pen name ?Iam A Hole? so no one would know who you really are just like all the famous writers do.
      • RE: UK teenager jailed for not disclosing password

        @wackoae Where did you see he was a pedophile?? The article said "under suspicion."
      • RE: UK teenager jailed for not disclosing password

        @wackoae I claim you to be a pedophile. now you are just as much a pedophile as the teenager in the UK. How does it feel to be a baby raper?
      • What happened to innocent until PROVEN guilty?

        @wackoae From the article: [b]A UK teenager, under suspicion by police countering online child sexual abuse and exploitation[/b] and the relevant part of this is: [i]...under suspicion by police...[/i] MEANING that he is NOT a pedophile until proven as such in a court of law. If he is, then I personally favor the death penalty for his crimes but he needs to be proven guilty first. You are jumping the gun here.
      • RE: UK teenager jailed for not disclosing password


        No it didn't.

        But read what he said... "A UK teenager, under suspicion by police countering online child sexual abuse and exploitation..."

        WHAT was he under suspicion of? That sentence says they were *countering* child sex-abuse and exploitation, but it only says that he was under suspicion of... what? Having information that might contribute to arrests?
      • RE: UK teenager jailed for not disclosing password

        @wackoae He was Not and has Not been charged with any sex crime. There for he is not guilty of any sex crime. That is for a jury to deside not you!!!! Or would you just hang him from a tree limb on here say?
      • IF he was a predator.

        @wackoae We in the US (and I think in the UK) have a right to protection from self-incrimination (5th Amendment), and if the police want to use my password to gain information which might be used to incriminate me, I can refuse on that basis alone. (I personally would give it as I am of course perfectly innocent of any wrongdoing at anytime except for that time when I
      • RE: UK teenager jailed for not disclosing password

        @wackoae And how do you know he was a predator?
      • RE: UK teenager jailed for not disclosing password

        @wackoae <br><br>It would appear that the only way to prove he was a "sexual predator" requires accessing his data. You do remember the phrase "innocent until proven guilty" which was originated by an English lawyer Sir William Garrow (17601840).<br><br>It's also worth considering that it seems that the police lack sufficient evidence to charge him without requiring him to incriminate himself. In quite a few countries, you do have a right not to incriminate yourself. See the 5th amendment to the US constitution, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, decisions by the European Court of Human Rights, the right to remain silent in England and Wales which has been embedded in common law for centuries. For England and Wales, there also seems to be a fair body of law stating that there is no duty to assist the police with their inquiries. OTOH, the Brits do have an act that requires you to supply the key to any protected information. An act which seems to see about as much misuse as the American "Patriot" act for police fishing expeditions.
      • RE: UK teenager jailed for not disclosing password

        Calling someone a 'pedofile' is a standard government action when they do not want the public to get involved. Once they say the word pedophile, hordes of people like you get involved and obscure the fact there is no proof that this kid did anything. Then the government if free to lock up anyone they feel like locking up.