Garyl Tan Jia Luo faces a $10,000 Singapore Dollar (U.S. $6,425) fine and up to three years in jail under the Singapore Computer Misues Act simply for accessing the Internet through his neighbors open WiFi port. Luo did not engage in any malicious activity.
Dale's Comment: For the reason's I've already discussed in related posts (see below), this is completely nuts! Simple, non-malicious Internet access via open WiFi ports should be universally exempt from prosecution. The universal adoption of open WiFi ports would be an ENORMOUS social good – making the Internet freely available to anyone wherever they travel around the globe. Yes, hotspot owners need to make sure they are usuing proper firewalls to safeguard against malicious behavior, but, to my mind, the legal system, hardware specifications and WiFi users should all encourage open and safe universal open WiFi. In my ideal world WiFi routers would be user configurable so that the hotspot owner can pre-set how much bandwidth he/she wishes to make available for external use. The owner could adjust such permitted use at will, eg via a slider control, or the system could automatically adjust external use rights up or down depending on the hotspot owner's current usage, the time of day, etc. Yes, I understand that this would run afoul of most current ISP terms of service contracts. But should it? Should laws be adopted to nullify this form of contractual prohibition. I argue that yes they should. With adequate technological safeguards in place, hotspot owners would be protected and ISPs would not face a sudden upsurge of system usage. Universal accessibility would spread such freeload usage around with minimal impact on any given ISP with a corresponding significantly positive social good. Among the many obvious social advantages, this would go a long way to bridging the digital-divide.
Sources: OUT-LAW.com | Engadget | The Register | TechSpot
Text of Decision [.doc]
Logan Airport had told Continental Airlines that it may not provide free WiFi in its Logan Airport President Club frequent-flier lounge. Logan had claimed Continental's WiFi interfered with navigational instruments and was therefore a safety concern. However, when pressed Logan Airport could not provide any evidence that WiFi networks had ever caused harm. Meanwhile Logan sold its own WiFi access service to customers at the airport.
Bottom-line: Logan's restrictions had nothing to do with safety. It wanted to retain the lucrative WiFi revenue stream to itself and its licensees. With this FCC ruling, the FCC reasserted that its "Over-the-air Reception Devices" rules preempt local restrictions.
Sources: Government Tech | Information Week | Boston Herald | Engadget | Broadcasting and Cable | Boston Globe
Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a new WiFi bill. Beginning on October 1, 2007, all wireless home networking equipment sold in California must come with an obvious warning (a sticker on the device itself or a screen in the software setup) about the dangers of unsecured networking. The warning must also give instructions on how to password-protect the network.
Sources: ars technica | Wi-Fi Planet | OUT-LAW.com
The often controversial John C. Dvorak makes an interesting point in his August 21 PC Magazine editorial – “The Google Ploy – A Revolution“. Google, an ardent supporter of Net Neutrality, has recently completed wiring Mountain View (it’s home city) with free municiple WiFi. The first such successfully wired city in America. Google is also wiring San Francisco. In his article, Dvorak makes the point that Google could very-well profitably monetize this free service and use it as a profitable model for city-by-city WiFi rollouts nation-wide. While perhaps not Google’s original intention, as the cable companies and telephone companies have been talking about the need for tiered services (along with tiered pricing for the likes of Google and Microsoft), if Google were to pull this off, this could result in the ultimate end-run around local telco/cable-co duopolies and, in so doing, do away with the need for net-neutrality legislation altogether. He makes a very interesting argument.
Source: John C. Dvorak Article: The Google Ploy – A Revolution? | The Register
Google Wires Mountain View Articles: Google’s Mountain View WiFi Support Page | Wired | San Jose Mercury News | San Francisco Chronicle | Palo Alto Online | PC Magazine | PC Pro | Gizmodo | Mac Newsworld | GigaOM | Playfuls
Text of Order to Dismiss (Jan 24, 2006)
In an earlier post I had noted that an open WiFi connection could act as an affirmative defense against the RIAA's IP-centric lawsuit tactics because anyone could have been using a defendant's open (ie: non-encrypted) WiFi connection to download P2P content. It appears the RIAA dropped a case on that exact basis back on January 24, 2006.
Sources: Recording Industry v. The People | Bit-tech.net | P2P-Weblog | P2PNet | Techdirt 1 | Techdirt 2 | ars technica | Register | Neoseeker
Related Article: Salon.com
Alexander Eric Smith was arrested after a three-month stretch where he periodically parked in front of a coffee shop off-and-on with a laptop and used its wireless Internet connection.
Sources: ars technica | Engadget | San Francisco Chronicle | techsearch | EETimes | iTnews.com.au | katu.com
Text of Westchester's Public Internet Protection Act
To avoid identity theft, businesses operating in Westchester County New York will soon need to turn on certain security settings for their WiFi networks if they are used to access financial information for their customers. The law stipulates that businesses must take "minimum security measures" that "include, but are not limited to: (a) installing a network firewall; (b) changing the system’s default SSID (network name); or (c) disabling SSID broadcasting." Other businesses operating open WiFi networks will be required to post signs to warn their customers about the perils of surfing unprotected networks. Penalties range from a warning on first offense to a $500 fine on third offense.
Sources: ars technica | San Jose Mercury News | Mid-Hudson News | WestChester County Press Release | Government Technology | Send2Press
An Illinois man plead guilty this week to remotely accessing another computer system without the owner’s approval and was handed one year of court supervision and a US$250 fine. David Kauchak was spotted using his laptop inside of his parked car in the middle of the night by a police officer this past January. The officer discovered that Kauchak was using an unprotected wireless access point belonging to a not-for-profit agency to access the Internet and cited him.
Sources: ars technica | Network World | Yahoo! News | The Register | Networking Pipeline | Rockford Register Star | TechSearch | RealTechNews
Paramount traces an eDonkey user to a specified IP Address but searches of the user's computers reveal no evidence of piracy. Man claims anyone could have used his unsecured wireless connection to use eDonkey.
Sources: Channel 5 Cincinnati | P2PNet
Note: While this story highlights the potential perils of leaving a WiFi Router open for use by neighbours, leaving an Internet connected WiFi router open to public use may set up an affirmative defence to piracy allegations.
Related WiFi Posts:
Related P2P Legal Discovery Posts:
The spread of wireless is opening lots of opportunity to log on for free, but experts urge caution. Is it wrong? Illegal? Should it be? Check out the CNN and Dvorak articles below for insight into the topic.
Sources: CNN Money | John C. Dvorak
Benjamin Smith III was arrested and charged with unauthorized access to a computer network, a third-degree felony in the state of Florida. It’s not clear, however, whether Smith was attempting to access a computer on the network or just browsing the web and checking e-mail.
Sources: ars technica | eWeek | St. Petersburg Times | CNNMoney.com | TechWhack News | Network World | NewsWireless.net | PC World