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. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2014 @ 1:22pm

    Re:

    "There are 46 randomized bits, so collisions won't be a problem until there are several million devices in the broadcast domain (and then you'll have bigger problems than address collisions)."

    Actually that's not quite correct. Vendors are supposed to use specifically unique addresses per device, but of course this has long been forgotten. I've run across several instances with specifically an HP laptop and HP Desktop using the same address and crashed a vlan, as well as two Linksys routers having the same MAC Address and take out a satellite link. Most network admins in large campus situations have experienced the same, I'm sure of it. And if you've ever run VMware ESXi, remember to change your vCenter ID per node....

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