by Timothy Lee
Fri, Mar 21st 2008 7:27am
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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