A Public Official Actually Shows Common Sense in Wireless 'Piggybacking' Debate

from the we're-shocked dept

A state legislature has apparently introduced legislation that would make it a crime punishable by up to three years in jail to “steal” a neighbor’s open wireless connection (found via Slashdot). The legislator claims that his goal in passing this legislation is to “clarify intentional theft vs. accidental use.” Amazingly, someone in the Maryland government actually has some common sense. The state’s public defender’s office filed a statement making the same point that we’ve been making for years: “A more effective way to prevent unauthorized access would be for owners’ (sic) to secure their wireless networks with assistance where necessary from Internet service providers or Vendors.” Aside from the typo, we couldn’t have put it better ourselves. They also point out that it won’t always be easy to know if a particular user’s usage of a wireless network is “intentional” or not because many non-technical users have no idea which network their computers are contacting. And, of course, some people leave their WiFi connections open on purpose. It seems better to err on the side of caution and not threaten people with multi-year jail terms for something that’s basically harmless. The police certainly have more important things to be worrying about.

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Comments on “A Public Official Actually Shows Common Sense in Wireless 'Piggybacking' Debate”

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17 Comments
nipseyrussell says:

wait, what? is it april fools already? doesnt this state’s public defender’s office care ABOUT THE CHILDREN!?!?!?!?
i vote for this anonymous official for president
oh, and i love the story where the poor schmuck got arrested for doing something he could have done “for free” 10 feet away. way to keep the streets safe from people checking e-mail.
oh, and lastly? can WE PLEASE NOT HAVE ANY STUPID ANALOGIES IN THE COMMENTS ABOUT HOW USING SOMEONES WIFI IS LIKE X or Y? No its NOT like going into someones house because the door is unlocked, and not its not like reading a book with the light that came from the neighbors porch, and we can debate the pros and cons of this without pretending it is because we are intelligent adults.

Relonar says:

This type of proposed ‘crime’ seems more like it should be dealt with in civil court rather than criminal.
If someone is using my connection (and it is either metered or i use %100 of my bandwidth cap) it should be my responsibility to secure it.

If I track down whoever was tapping in, if it cost me any significant amount in ‘damages’ (say $500 on my metered line, which would be quite a large use) then take then to a civil court to have them pay their share.

of course if you want people to file police reports, open investigations, have municipalities spend tens of thousands extra on equipment, training, and man-hours, on an already stressed workforce, on civil matters.

and cases like this will most likely end up in the civil courts anyway since the ‘victim’ will want their money back.

just the thoughts of a board engineering student before breakfast
have fun

Ray says:

What it's really about...

This proposed law, like many others is not about protecting the public or the rights of citizens; it’s simply about a new revenue stream. I sincerely doubt there would ever really be jail time for this issue but I can guarantee there will be fines…paid to your friendly neighborhood government. As if they need more of our money to waste.

Do you really think anyone is saved from harm by punishing someone for WiFi piggybacking? I know of no one with high speed access that has metered usage. If it’s out there it’s exceedingly rare. There are no quantifiable damages to hang a civil suit on, unless you are the ISP who isn’t getting the neighbors money for another underutilized bandwidth pipeline into their home. Basically the neighbor is just taking advantage of the stupidity of the owner of the WiFi network and unused bandwidth that would otherwise be wasted.

It’s time to point out the emperor’s nudity. Like many of the arbitrary traffic laws, speed traps, speed cameras, radar, lidar and red light cameras; it’s all about the money. Time and time again, statistics and studies prove that public safety or security is not served by these measures. But they make great revenue streams for the government.

David says:

Maryland is Anti-Technology

This is just another in a string of recent anti-technology laws to pass in recent months. They have also passed new taxes (6% or greater) on all forms of computer services. There are now attempts at a repeal, but few see that as likely. The result is many computer businesses, especially small and consulting types, are looking at packing up and moving to Virginia or Delaware.

Anonymous Coward says:

I read an article recently about a local law enforcement agency driving around the neighborhoods looking for open wireless connections so that they could inform the owner of the risks and potential unlawful uses. At first I thought – wow why aren’t they out apprehending real criminals? But then I remembered that the cops like donuts and catching real crooks would interfere with that.

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