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I'm an Internet Poacher

Publication Date: 
April 05, 2006
San Francisco Chronicle
Caille Millner

Professor Jennifer Granick is quoted in a San Francisco Chronicle article about "poaching" wireless Internet access:

No one knows the legal ramifications of poaching. There are no specific laws about Wi-Fi. The only law that's been used against piggybacking is a 1986 federal statute that was written to punish computer hacking. Last year, Florida police arrested a man who had been sitting in his Chevy Blazer in a residential neighborhood at 11 p.m., poking around for a wireless connection. He was charged with unauthorized access to a computer network, a third-degree felony.

But that's in Florida.

"If they tried that in San Francisco, half the city would be in prison," said Jennifer S. Granick, executive director at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society. "I think that (case) is a giant mistake on the part of the prosecutor. It misunderstands both the technology and the ethics of wireless sharing."

Granick and other experts say that the Internet is designed for sharing -- and if a network owner doesn't want to share, all they have to do is encrypt their network.

"The onus is on the owner," Granick said. "The visitor doesn't know whether I want to share or not."