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Privacy Be Damned: UK Authorities Demand Activist Turn Over Encryption Keys

© Twitter/BlackPlansUS Seeks Extradition of Famed British Hactivist Lauri Love After UK Arrest
US Seeks Extradition of Famed British Hactivist Lauri Love After UK Arrest - Sputnik International
British police are currently attempting to force an activist, wanted by the US government for hacking, to turn over his encryption keys, a move which may see as a dangerous precedent for journalists and anyone else in possession of material they wish to keep private.

Lauri Love, of Stradishall, in Suffolk, is accused of hacking into agencies including the US Army, NASA, the US Federal Reserve and the Environmental Protection Agency. The United States is now actively pursuing three extradition requests; one to New Jersey, another to the Southern District of New York, and a last to East Virginia.

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First arrested in 2013 on an arrest warrant from the US Love was not charged in the UK. He had computer equipment seized by British police who then released him on bail.

Following his raid and arrest, Love filed a lawsuit against the UK government to return his seized electronics (including computers which they were unable to decrypt), and in May 2015, he had most of his belongings returned.

Upon the return of his possessions however, the UK government served him with an order under Section 49 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, demanding that he turn over the keys to decrypt some of the devices. Love said he would not comply, and for a while it seemed as though the agency had given up.

Love hadn’t given up however, and sued to get his hard drives and devices back. In a seemingly retaliatory move, the agency once again demanded the encryption keys for the TrueCrypt software he used.

The Courage Foundation, a transparency advocacy group raising money for Love, told The Intercept that they believe this could have “huge implications for journalists, activists, and others who need to guard confidential information.”

The encryption key issue is set to be the topic of an April 12 hearing, where a judge could rule that Love must hand over the keys — something which he has adamantly stated he will not do.

“I won't be assisting obviously, so it's a matter of whether the judge appreciates that you cannot make someone's ability to own computers and store data dependent on satisfying the police, especially when someone is not being prosecuted in the country those police are supposed to be upholding the law of,” Love told Sputnik News.

He also explained that the consequences of his case could be far wider than the FBI’s attempt to get Apple to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s phone.

“In the San Bernadino case the phone belongs to the government, the person who put the pincode on it is dead and presumably killed a bunch of people, so he doesn't have many rights to property,” Love explained. “In this case, my entire digital life was taken along with all the computer equipment I owned and for 2.5 years i've had no access at all despite being still innocent, uncharged under UK law, presumptively with all the rights anyone else has.”

What this means, he said, is that “if the police can represent 'facts' in a colourful enough way to get a warrant, which is basically less effort than farting, then they can take and deny access to anyone of all of their digital equipment and media and refuse to return it if there are any portions they suspect (note, merely suspect, not having demonstrated or proved or evidence, but suspect) to be encrypted — then the property is forfeit.”

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“This is a complete reversal of property rights into privileges granted by the state on the basis that they can peek at whatever they want and a presumption of guilt on any data that is not 'comprehensible,’” Love stated. “So it all starts to seem a bit like an inquisition, which is kinda how the government would like to deal with hackers, but it's not the way forward for society.”

According to the FBI, Love worked under the name “Peace,” referencing his proclaimed commitment to human rights, peace, and universal justice. There are no allegations that any of crimes he is accused of committing were for personal gain.

Love’s legal team has said that he could face up to 99 years in jail if he is successfully extradited and convicted. Supporters have taken to social media and launched the hashtag #FreeLove, and the slogan “No Love for the US Gov!” to speak out against his extradition.

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