#CyberFLASH: Your cellphone password could hold the key in legal battle over collecting evidence


Here’s the scenario: Police believe there is evidence on your cellphone or computer that could assist them in a criminal investigation.

They ask that you provide your password or encryption key so they can search for clues.

Currently, there is no law compelling you to comply with that request.

But police in Canada, frustrated by evidence trails that lead to digital dead ends, are calling for a law that would make it a criminal offence to say no to a police officer carrying a judicial warrant.

It’s an idea designed to accomplish through a legal order what police are increasingly unable to accomplish technologically — getting inside digital devices containing what they believe is crucial evidence in criminal investigations.

“It’s a very radical proposal in Canadian law,” said Micheal Vonn, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. “It changes the basic nature of how we go about achieving the ends of criminal investigation, by compelling the person who is under investigation to participate in the investigation.”

Many privacy advocates — and even some in law enforcement — call the idea an abuse of both privacy protections and the rights of Canadians against self-incrimination.

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