Stealing wifi is an old subject but it remains an interesting one. That some people have been prosecuted for stealing wifi in different parts of the world is also old news.* Still most of us have no problem checking for open networks when we need to access. I have also known users to be on their neighbours wifi without knowing or meaning to – they just don’t understand the difference. But this may be a minorty.
The availablity of open networks is either intentional, unintentional or even accidental. Accidental occurs when people don’t know about wifi and unintentional happens when people don’t know what they are doing. Then there is the group who intentionally shares their wifi.**
Some would prefer to share because sharing is good. Bruce Schneier has written about the added good of openness.
Similarly, I appreciate an open network when I am otherwise without bandwidth. If someone were using my network to the point that it affected my own traffic or if some neighbor kid was dinking around, I might want to do something about it; but as long as we’re all polite, why should this concern me? Pay it forward, I say.
The attitudes about freeloading and sharing vary. Some are scared of intrusion, some support the openness and others could not care less. Unfortunately the latter group is growing. I say unfortunately since the default settings on more wireless routers, especially those provided by ISPs, are closed.
This is the equivalent of the house advantage in roulette. Slowly and surely their will be no openness left other than those few activists who strive to ensure open networks. This means that the struggle for openness will go from the commonplace to the realm of the activists.
* Arstechnica reports that an Illinois man was arrested and fined $250 in 2006 & in Michigan man who parked his car in front of a café and snarfed its free WiFi was charged this past May  with “Fraudulent access to computers, computer systems, and computer networks.” In a similar case from Singapore (Engadget) a 17-year old recieved 18 months of probation under the Computer Misuse Act for stealing his neighbours wifi. In the UK one man was been arrested and two people have been cautioned for WiFi theft or “dishonestly obtaining electronic communications services with intent to avoid payment.”
** Sharing wifi will in most cases violate the contract terms for most internet service providers.
I am almost ashamed for not blogging and discussing this in more detail. There have been plenty of media, discussions, and a blogging frenzy in the past two weeks…
Short of actually doing the work myself I simplified life – or gave way to my laziness and re-post this post from the EFF
A proposed new law in Sweden (voted on this week, after much delay) will, if passed, allow a secretive government agency ostensibly concerned with signals intelligence to install technology in twenty public hubs across the country. There it will be permitted to conduct a huge mass data-mining project, processing and analysing the telephony, emails, and web traffic of millions of innocent individuals. Allegedly these monitoring stations will be restricted to data passing across Sweden’s borders with other countries for the purposes of monitoring terrorist activity: but there seems few judicial or technical safeguards to prevent domestic communications from being swept up in the dragnet. Sound familiar?
The passing of the FRA law (or “Lex Orwell”, as the Swedish are calling it) next week is by no means guaranteed. Many Swedes are up in arms over its provisions (the protest Facebook group has over 5000 members; the chief protest site links to thousands of angry commenters across the Web). With the governing alliance managing the barest of majorities in the Swedish Parliament, it would only take four MPs in the governing coalition opposing this bill to effectively remove it from the government’s agenda.
As with the debate over the NSA warrantless wiretapping program in the United States, much of this domestic Swedish debate revolves around how much their own nationals will be caught up with this dragnet surveillance. But as anyone who has sat outside the US debate will know, there is a wider international dimension to such pervasive spying systems. No promise that a dragnet surveillance system will do its best to eliminate domestic traffic removes the fact that it *will* pick up terabytes of the innocent communications of, and with, foreigners – especially those of Sweden’s supposed allies and friends.
Sweden is a part of the European Union: a community of states which places a strong emphasis on the values of privacy, proportionality, and the mutual defence of those values by its members. But even as the EU aspires to being a closer, borderless community, it seems Sweden is determined to set its spies on every entry and exit to Sweden. When the citizens of the EU talk to their Swedish colleagues, what happens to their private communications then?
When revelations regarding the United Kingdom’s involvement in a UK-US surveillance agreement emerged in 2000, the European Parliament produced a highly critical report (and recommended that EU adopt strong pervasive encryption to protect its citizens’ privacy).
Back then, UK’s cavalier attitude to European communications, and its willingness to hand that data to the United States and other non-EU countries, greatly concerned Europe’s elected legislators. Already questions are being asked in the European Parliament about Sweden’s new plans and their effect on European citizen’s personal data. Commercial companies like TeliaSonera have moved servers out of Sweden to prevent their customers from being wiretapped by the Swedish Department of Defence. Sweden’s own business community have expressed concern that companies may move out of Sweden to protect their private financial data.
Sweden has often led the charge for government openness and consumer advocacy, and has, understandably, much national pride in seeing its past policies exported and reflected in Europe and beyond. Before Sweden’s MPs vote next week to allow its government surveillance access to whole Net, they should certainly consider its effect on their Swedish citizens’ privacy. But it should also ponder exactly how their vote will be seen by their closest neighbors. If the Lex Orwell passes, Sweden may not need something so sophisticated as a supercomputer to hear what the rest of the world thinks about their new values.
Not only is data retention a potential violation of civil liberties but it now may turn out to be pointless according to the Max-Planck-Institute for Criminal Law. (via Gisle Hannemyr)
A report (PDF) from Max-Planck-Instituts für Strafrecht about data rentention was recently featured in Heise.de and the online edition of Der Spiegel. Below is a summary in English.
According to the study, the logging and retention of certain telecomminications traffic data for six months that was made compulsory in Germany in January 2008 will only have mariginal effect and traffic data will be of use in as little as 0.002 % of the total number of criminal cases. This is within the marigin of statistical error and the annual variation in criminal cases solved is one hundered times greater.
This finding corresponds to estimates from Bundeskriminalamts, who in a separate study from the summer of 2007 says that data retention will incease the percentage of solved crimes “from 55 percent today to, at most, 55.006 percent.”
The Max-Planck study also shows an exponential increase in use of traffic data by law enforcement, from 5000 queries in year 2000 to about 41000 in the year 2005 (see summary and figures on pages 77, 90, and 402 in the report). In Bayern traffic data queries increased by 60 percent from 2006 to 2007 according to this report.
With respect to types of crime, 50 percent of IP-address queries concerns fraud and 25 percent concerns copyright violations. The argument that traffic data are needed to prevent terrorism is not supported by the statistics.
The study also warns about dangers from abuse due to unauthorized access to the stored data by inside or outside agents at well as the potential to use such data for “strategic surveillance” of large segments of the population.
Tomorrow I will be holding a seminar at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute at Lund entitled Abusing Property Rights: Copyright as a knowledge barrier & the Open Access movement. This is a new angle on a familiar topic so I am looking forward to the discussions.
The French encyclopedia Larousse was started for over 150 years ago is joining the Internet in a big way. They are launching their own version of Wikipedia.
Since any Wikipedia user can make changes to Wikipedia it is often criticized for having an inherent potential for unreliability. The Larousse version will have free access and enable users to contribute – but not totally freely. Anonymous contributions will not be permitted, but users who want to contribute have to sign up and their names will then appear on the article they submit. In addition to this contributions, once written, become protected.
The Larousse will also begin by putting 150,000 articles from its universal encyclopaedia online, in addition to 10,000 images.
More information at The Independent.
Tonight at eight Swedish TV2 will be showing the Danish documentary Good Copy Bad Copy. The film was made by Henrik Moltke of Creative Commons Danmark. If you don’t have access to Swedish TV2 you can download the it from the movie webpage.
From the German Olympic Committee comes Fat David. What Michelangelo’s David would have looked like if he had a TV, Computer games, a DVD player and access to fast food.
The TimesOnline has this story about the overcrowding at the famed British Library Reading Room. The main problem is that there are too few places for all those who want to be there. Unfortunately the complaints about lazy students wanting to “hang out” and therefore occupying places for “better” people misses the importance of the story. For example parts like this:
Although there are 1,480 seats in the library, the author Christopher Hawtree was last week forced to perch on a windowsill … Lady Antonia said: “I had to queue for 20 minutes to get in, in freezing weather. Then I queued to leave my coat for 20 minutes [at the compulsory check-in]. Then half an hour to get my books and another 15 minutes to get my coat. I’m told it’s due to students having access now. Why can’t they go to their university libraries?”
Make most people feel like shouting: get a life, you can afford it!
But the reality of the problem is that access to reading rooms (at any library) should be kept within limits so that those there can actually get work done. Overcrowding affects service and makes access pointless.
So why overcrowd the reading rooms? Is it because of a genuine egalitarian urge? Maybe, but I suspect the truth is in the final sentence of the article:
…that the library’s directors received performance bonuses depending on the number of visits.
Question Technology writes that Encyclopedia Britannica begun making their material available free online.
Not only can bloggers access encyclopedia articles for free, their readers can access any article they link to. For example, you should be able to read this entry on history of technology (you’ll see ugly ads, though; it’s ad-free when you sign in).
Whatever your position in the Britannica vs Wikipedia debate this last move can only be seen as a reaction to the wealth of information available online.
My main gripe however, is that Britannica still wants you to sign up (it’s free) and then log in (it’s automatic) these steps are massive barriers which will only serve to promote the openness of wikipedia.
On my way down to Lund to attend the Fourth Nordic Conference on Scholarly Communication. for me the highlights of the first day will be
Open Scholarship: Synergies between Open Access and Open Education
Melissa Hagemann, OSI
Access, Usage and Citation Metrics: What Function for Digital Libraries and Repositories in Research Evaluation?
Chris Armbruster, Research Network 1989 and Max Planck Digital Library
Judging Merit – The Value of Publications
Ingegerd Rabow, Lunds Universitet
And naturally the opportunity to speak to lots of people with the same interests.