Austin Police Planned... Then Postponed Wardriving Plans In An Attempt To Shutdown Open WiFi

from the um,-but-it's-legal dept

Jonathan Rumion alerted us to a plan by the Austin, Texas police department to conduct a massive war drive around the city, looking for open WiFi networks, with the plan to try to find the owners, and tell them to lock up their WiFi networks. We've heard of similar campaigns in the past. Rumion was reasonably concerned about this effort -- and whether it was because of him asking questions, or other reasons, it looks like the Austin police have postponed this effort for the time being.

Either way, it raises lots of questions. Having an open WiFi network is not against the law, so should the police really be going around telling people to lock up their WiFi? It's also not at all clear how they're figuring out who actually owns the open WiFi networks. Rumion was also concerned about what the police might do with the data they collect, though I don't think that should be an issue -- that data is public. Still, it does seem like a questionable effort against something that remains perfectly legal.

Filed Under: austin, open wifi, wifi, wireless


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  1. identicon
    Frogpond, 26 Sep 2011 @ 4:41am

    Open WiFi

    The concept of leaving a personal WIFI open to the public is risky and I have the legal bills to prove it. A few years ago the cops in my area were not smart enough to realize that an IP number is not like a fingerprint. When some unknown dirt bag used my open WIFI to order stuff on a stolen credit card they were convinced it was me even though I was a thousand miles away from my computer when it occurred.
    They are much smarter now thanks to my lawyer and a few thousand dollars of my money.

    Having said this, I would defend anyone's right to leave their WIFI open but I would not recommend it.

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