China Monitors WiFi, US Takes Notes?

from the but-but-THEY-are-doing-it dept

In a move that perhaps surprises no one, China is now requiring all providers of free WiFi to install expensive monitoring software that tracks their users, or face heavy fines. According to the officials in the Dongcheng Public Security Bureau, the rules are in place to catch people who "conduct blackmail, traffic goods, gamble, propagate damaging information and spread computer viruses." And I'm sure if they just happen to catch a political dissident here and there, well, that would just be a fortuitous turn of events.

I think even the least cynical among us can see what the real aim is here. What concerns me, however, is how the US will respond.

If history is any indication, US officials will denounce this as a restriction on free speech, while at the same time making sure to vigorously support such restrictions at home. They'll probably decry the new Chinese efforts as privacy invasive while doing their best to make ISPs retain data on customers for law enforcement use. No doubt they will have strong words to say about internet censorship around the globe while they craft bills to take down websites with little or no due process. In fact, the very notion of open WiFi itself has been under siege for quite some time. Operating an open connection can already get your internet disconnected, or have your house raided by a swat team. With all that hypocrisy in mind, the next step for the US with regard to open WiFi seems pretty clear.

Lest you think I am engaging in hyperbole, perhaps an exercise is in order. All we need to do is to adjust the stated goals of the Chinese to match current US culture and politics:

1. "Blackmail" is not a hot button issue here, so they might want to claim the needed data retention policies are to stop child porn instead. That always sells well.
2. "Traffic Goods" sounds an awful lot like trading in counterfeit goods. And of course we know that selling fake medicine is just like copyright infringement.
3. "Gambling" is easy enough. We already seize poker sites. We even set up our own fake payment sites so we can steal money from gamblers too!
4. "Propagate damaging information?" What could be more damaging than wikileaks, which we're trying desperately to charge with something (anything!).
5. "Spread computer viruses" fits nicely into the current cybercrime fear-mongering.

Can anyone honestly say that they can't see a US politician standing up tomorrow to announce that we need to start monitoring our own open WiFi connections to stop "child pornography, copyright infringement, online gambling, disclosure of national secrets, and cybercrime?" That's practically the holy grail of political grandstanding, and what politician is going to speak out against that?

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 27th, 2011 @ 2:17pm

    The Chinese government has clearly figured out the hole that exists with open wifi. I am betting that wi-fi units that can be "open" will be discouraged or even blocked from selling at some point.

    In the US, you will likely see changes to laws that create an offence is "aiding or abetting" crimes committed over an open wi-fi connection. It's clearly a real issue going forward.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Gwiz (profile), Jul 27th, 2011 @ 2:21pm

    It's kind of funny. I was just reading about the development of mobile ad hoc networks, or MANETs to circumvent centralized communication hubs.

    So in the usual left hand not aware of the right hand tactic of the US government, they will probably clamp down on open WiFi and at the same time be funding this project. Fun stuff.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Designerfx (profile), Jul 27th, 2011 @ 2:24pm

    you kiddin mike?

    Given the rupert murdoch corruption....errr...connection, They've been trotting this out via foxnews since early this year as it being "dangerous for thievery" let alone anything else. ard/

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    The eejit (profile), Jul 27th, 2011 @ 2:32pm

    Re: you kiddin mike?

    Well, acutally, it isdangerous to your bank balance...if you're an idiot.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 27th, 2011 @ 2:55pm


    ... usual left hand not aware of the right hand tactic....

    I was looking for a link to an article about the notorious bootlegger and rumrunner who was riding in the front car of the Temperance parade, but this one is close enough...

    1920's Prohibition:
    Criminal elements organized because of the large profits in bootlegging. Much of the population had contempt for law enforcement during 1920s' Prohibition. Chicago’s Al Capone and his organization were considered glamorous figures; supposedly, half the city’s police were on their payroll.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Jul 27th, 2011 @ 4:00pm

    Re: Re: you kiddin mike?

    Mike might be kidding. But I'd check with Chris first.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Nicedoggy, Jul 27th, 2011 @ 4:04pm

    US cyber security official steps down amid string of hacks

    Probably nobody is paying much attention to that right now since LuLz is giving them a bad hair day apparently.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    weneedhelp (profile), Jul 27th, 2011 @ 4:34pm

    I am forced to the conclusion that the image of the ugly American is essentially valid, preaching love and peace yet practicing hatred and violence, claiming fidelity to the Constitution yet systematically abrogating the rights of other citizens, and countries.

    Adjusted from a statement about the Ku Klux Klan.

    Sad, but appears to be true.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Ed C., Jul 27th, 2011 @ 4:59pm

    It's not too hard to figure out once you frame that in the context of us vs them: "...preaching love and peace (for those who agree with them) yet practicing hatred and violence (against anyone who doesn't), claiming fidelity to the Constitution (as long as it suits them) yet systematically abrogating the rights of other citizens, and countries (who they couldn't give a rat's ass for).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Pixelation, Jul 27th, 2011 @ 10:01pm

    Software hack in 3..2..1..

    I can't wait to see what the hacking community comes up with to counter this one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    The eejit (profile), Jul 28th, 2011 @ 2:25am

    Re: Software hack in 3..2..1..

    a $20 piece of kit that plugs in to the router's #1 port?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Nicedoggy, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 5:56am

    Maybe the USA government will get afraid of the second largest company in the world in telecom and network equipment and pass some laws.

    More and more America looks like an island.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Casey Mahoney (profile), Aug 8th, 2011 @ 2:32pm


    People that have unsecured Wifi are asking for it.People should have a secured feed.I have heard stories of people watching porn at the library.You open yourself up with many problems with an unsecured network

    Thanks Casey Mahoney

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    AB, Mar 10th, 2013 @ 8:45pm

    W I. F I. Use.


    What do u mean. By Secure wifi ?

    I have Intl student - she uses wifi - to call
    Parents at home


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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