"Providing the passcode does not 'betray any knowledge [Stahl] may have about the circumstances of the offenses' for which he is charged," Black said, writing for the Florida court's three-judge panel. "Thus," he said, "compelling a suspect to make a nonfactual statement that facilitates the production of evidence for which the state has otherwise obtained a warrant ... does not offend the privilege."
This is a compelling argument for handing over Stahl's passcode. But then again, it's also compelling because he's such a blatant scumbag about all of this. Maybe it's a false equivalency, though I'm inclined to believe it's the rest of us who'll pay for this guy's troll-like behavior. He brazenly violated a woman's privacy and expects his privacy protections to be upheld, so he can get away with it. He's not all that different from the guy on Twitter claiming death and rape threats are protected free speech.
This ruling is supposed to be about the greater good, but there's nothing that feels great or good about it.
We'll probably wade through a hodge-podge of law enforcement rules across the nation until this gets ironed out, while precedents get set that aren't thought through. In the meantime, we can be sure bad cops will collect passcodes and see what else they can get into with them. Because, thanks to security fatigue, people reuse the same passwords and pins wherever possible.
It doesn't take the mind of a hacker to figure that someone's four-digit cellphone pin is probably the same as their ATM and voicemail pincode.
So look: It's not that cops and border guards and probably stormtroopers can't demand access to people's phones and computers nearly everywhere else in the world, because they can. It's just that here, we've been living in an arrogant fantasy that we were somehow immune to that type of control. Rest assured that countries on every other continent circling our shaky blue orb don't live in this fantasy.
We might be inclined to think that the world has gotten more fascist. No. It's just we're losing our virginity, and effectual consent is bad for authoritarianism. Welcome to the rest of the world. It's time to quit whining about Android vs. Apple security, or how broken the password model is, and realize your cutesy privacy island never existed in the first place.
Laws like these might be what we deserve, after years of remaining relatively ignorant to the realities of how tech tools like cellphones and Facebook are used by authoritarian leaders and surveillance-happy police. We're about to enter a future where our president embraces letting government off the leash when it comes to surveilling citizens.
I remember when Google's Eric Schmidt said, "If you have something you don't want anyone to know, then maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." And when Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg said that if you're not doing anything "wrong" then you don't have anything to worry about when it comes to losing your privacy. It's starting to look like these weren't just harmless words from eccentric tech billionaires.
All I'm saying is that this is all connected, and the road that led to cops being able to search your entire life during a traffic stop is one paved with greed, perverse ideals, and nightmarish lapses of empathy. Of course, some of us tried to raise the alarm back then, but we were written off as bad people with something to hide because we wanted boundaries.
But this story, the one about the Fifth Amendment and passcodes, is supposed to be about fairness and justice. Except with bad guys like Aaron Stahl, it's a fairness that feels so cynical we barely understand how we got here