Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

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OK He wasn't almost arrested, but he was told that he couldn't be use computer within range of the open wifi network of the public library by a policeman. The officer cites some law against it and describes all of the terrible things Reverend AKMA could be doing. When AKMA asks whether this was a state or federal law, the officer says, "It’s a federal law, sir; a Secret Service agent came and explained it to us.”

Anyway, it's worth reading his entire post. What law is this officer referring to and how can we undo damage that misinformed (if there is no such law) Secret Service agents are causing? If it were me or some other less pious person, I'm sure the policeman might not have been as nice.


1030 (a)(2)(C) is the gotcha! clause to my reading.

Whoever ... intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access, and thereby obtains ... information from any protected computer if the conduct involved an interstate or foreign communication;


the term ''protected computer'' means a computer ... which is used in interstate or foreign commerce or communication, ...

but IANAL.

I don't think you need to dig up special laws: this would probably fit within standard theft-of-services laws. And you could certainly file a tort action--and the defendant could maybe respond that it was an "attractive nuisance." :-)

Compare the cases where employees are nailed for setting up SETI on a company's computers and using bandwidth.

The library paid for the WiFi and has the right to establish terms of usage.

Using WiFi is convenient and all, but don't let yourself get blinded by this and forget that you're using something someone else is paying for. And the price they're paying for it is cheap because ISPs set prices based on the assumption that the subscriber is going to use it, not everyone in the neighborhood. Also, using someone else's WiFi exposes them to potential hackers or accusations that it was them, not you, that accessed the kiddy porn site.

"Using WiFi is convenient and all, but don't let yourself get blinded by this and forget that you're using something someone else is paying for."

He was outside a public library. Public libraries are owned by ... the public. Have we forgotten what that word means?

However the WiFi was sending on public ground, so the library should shield the waves from leaving the building then things are ok. Everybody who sets up a Wifi spot and send outside his property doesn't have a right of protection, as much as the people walking by are not protected from waves that they don't want to be hit with.

Hearing such a story makes me more and more believe that something in the US is fundamentally sick. I'm surprised that
he was not sent to Guantanamo right away :D

Tony: Members of the public cannot just walk off with anything in the public library. You can take a chair just because you want it. The library sets rules on what you can do with its property. It is "public" and your property only in the sense that you can vote in elected officials who will appoint people who will change the rules if you don't like the rules. I'm not trying to argue with you on a philosophical level; rather, I'm just reporting to you what the law is.

nojetlag: Shielding is not practical, and the library has apparently decided that requiring everyone who walks in to get a password is not practical either. But this doesn't change the fact that you can't use something that's not yours. Reverse the situation. What if one (or one hundred) of your neighbors decided to set up, on the WiFi that you were paying for, Bittorent/P2P download servers, and as a result your own connectivity was substantially slower, or your ISP cut you off, or your ISP had to raise your rates because this sort of thing was becoming common and was overloading their resources?

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