This Essay considers whether the government can force a person to decrypt his computer. The only courts to consider the issue limited their analyses to rote application of predigital doctrine and dicta. This is a mistake; courts should instead aim to maintain the ex ante equilibrium of privacy and government power. This approach—seeking equilibrium—was just endorsed by the Supreme Court in Riley v. California, a recent Fourth Amendment case. Yet Riley’s rationale also extends to the Fifth Amendment’s Self-Incrimination Clause, and maintaining equilibrium there requires permitting forced decryption. Because current doctrine can be interpreted as allowing forced decryption, courts should adopt that interpretation.
Forced Decryption as Equilibrium—Why It’s Constitutional and How Riley Matters,
Nw. U. L. Rev.