Court Ruling Prevents FBI From Being Given Encryption Keys

In 2012, police in New Zealand raided a mansion and seized several computers that belonged to internet entrepreneur and businessman Kim Dotcom as part of an investigation into allegations that Dotcom was involved in online piracy, copyright infringement, and money laundering.

The drives from these computers were subsequently handed over to the FBI but it turned out that submission was illegal. It was later found out by the FBI that the drives in question were encrypted, but they are still in the agency’s possession.

Dotcom’s lawyer stated in The High Court in Auckland, New Zealand in 2012 that his client needed the drives returned so that he could access the information thereon and mount a proper defense.

Since the data was encrypted, the FBI made it known that they did not want the drives to be returned to Dotcom. They subsequently demanded that Dotcom provide the passwords for decryption of the drives – 135 of them in all – but he refused to do so unless he was first granted access by the court to the data on the drives.

The court had given assurance to Dotcom and his lawyer that none of the data would be sent to the United States for the FBI to receive, but the New Zealand police had already sent the hard drives.

In May of this year, Dotcom’s lawyer returned to the High Court and argued once again that the FBI needed to release copies of the data to his client for defense preparation purposes. Dotcom agreed to supply New Zealand police with the passwords for the data on the condition that those passwords not be given to the FBI.

The ruling came down today, July 2nd, 2014, from the High Court that if Dotcom does indeed provide the police with the passwords they are not to be given to the FBI.

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