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    In an interesting work-around, Levison complied the next day by turning over the private SSL keys as an 11 page printout in 4-point type. The government, not unreasonably, called the printout “illegible.”

    “To make use of these keys, the FBI would have to manually input all 2,560 characters, and one incorrect keystroke in this laborious process would render the FBI collection system incapable of collecting decrypted data,” prosecutors wrote.

    I guess the FBI hasn’t discovered scanners and OCR software yet.

    And how does 2560 characters in 4-point type take up 11 pages?

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      Maybe he wrote the key out, “one eight seven six …”? (how well does ocr work with 4-point font. i don’t think i could distinguish numbers printed that small.)

      Anyway, the initial request didn’t seem so unreasonable. I can see how decrypting and providing copies to the government defeats the purpose of an encrypted email service, but it was nevertheless technically feasible and not particularly arduous. And “feasible but not arduous” is kind of the standard for warrant/subpoena requests. I imagine “I would prefer not to decrypt that” has about as much weight as “I would prefer not to write that SQL query” (wrt other people’s data, with no fourth amendment considerations).

      I suspect the FBI was no longer willing to consider their original request after things escalated to the SSL key demand because of concerns about bad faith. (“oops, I forgot to turn the data collection on. oops, typed in the wrong user name. oops, /tmp filled up.”)

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        Either way, was it really out of the realm of possibility to have a person manually enter the values? Sure it is a pain, but it wouldn’t take more than an hour of time.