When Aaron Swartz Spoofed His MAC Address, It Proved He Was A Criminal; When Apple Does It, It's Good For Everyone

from the only-the-second-one-is-true dept

Whenever we write about Aaron Swartz and the criminal prosecution against him, some of our (and Aaron's) critics scream that it was "obvious" that he knew he was up to no good, because he chose to spoof his MAC address on the machine he used to download JSTOR articles. Of course, as many people explained, spoofing a MAC address isn't some crazy nefarious thing to do, and often makes a lot of sense. In fact, Apple recently announced that iOS 8 will have randomized MAC addresses to better protect people's privacy. Simply speaking: Apple is making "MAC spoofing" standard. And, as the folks over at EFF are noting, this is a very good thing for your privacy.

As Cory Doctorow points out, this highlights the ridiculousness of MAC spoofing being used as evidence against Swartz, when now it's going to be a standard feature of iPhones and iPads (and, hopefully, other device makers will quickly follow suit).

This, of course, is one of the unfortunate results when you have law enforcement folks who simply don't understand much technology. People who actually understand both privacy and the ways you might approach problems you face on the internet, recognize that things like MAC spoofing are perfectly reasonable to do at times -- but such actions are twisted by law enforcement as being nefarious and dangerous because it makes it easier to "build a case" and because they don't understand how perfectly common such actions are.

Filed Under: aaron swartz, ios, mac address, privacy, spoofing


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  1. icon
    G Thompson (profile), 17 Jun 2014 @ 12:02pm

    Re: Uh, no.

    You are talking about intent, whereas if in fact he did that to EVERY network he accessed then it would not be intentional to the specific case at hand the mens rae breaks down since it isn't intent since the intent is in fact the norm!

    In other words if you always spoof your address because you are either paranoid or otherwise , and it seems with good reason nowadays, the intent element doesn't hold water. Also the onus is on the prosecution that someone in your field, doing exactly the same thing with same knowledge would NOT do that always. And as anyone in the networking or security field understands that would be pulled to shreds by any capable defense.

    Oh and MAC address's aren't for the "security" purposes you are alluding that they are for.

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