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Computer Crime - Privacy Issues

criminal data encryption individuals

Computers present new considerations for both substantive criminal law and criminal procedure. At the heart of many of the questions is the appropriate balance between privacy rights and necessary criminal investigation. It is particularly problematic with respect to computer crimes, since serious national security issues can arise when computers are misused.

The tension between the government's need to secure information to investigate criminal conduct and privacy concerns of individuals and businesses appears prominently in the debate concerning encryption. Encryption offers individuals and businesses the ability to protect the privacy of data being transferred on the Internet. Encryption is particularly useful in protecting trade secrets in the commercial market. Encryption, however, also can be used to avoid detection by individuals who are committing unlawful activities. By encrypting data, individuals can store data, transmit data, and harmfully use data for criminal purposes. The Department of Justice has expressed concern that securely encrypted material can undermine law enforcement efforts. Unlike law enforcement's ability to obtain court authorized wiretaps for information transmitted over the telephone, securely encrypted matter may preclude the government from using the material.

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