[LINK] Google's WiFi bungle

Craig Sanders cas at taz.net.au
Wed May 19 19:11:13 AEST 2010

[KH has already commented on the terrible misuse of the term
narrow-casting, and i have nothing useful to add to that so i'll
comment on other issues]

On Wed, May 19, 2010 at 05:25:02PM +1000, David Vaile wrote:
> The law in Australia, as I mentioned, clearly treats WiFi as
> NARROW-casting, intended for certain specific (intended) users, NOT
> for everyone. It is thus NOT a 'broadcast' like say a commercial radio
> station is a 'broadcast', even though they both use electromagnetic
> waves.

like any other broadcast, it is "intended" for anyone within reception

given that there are both "open" and "closed" networks operating on
the same wifi spectra and all interfering with each other to varying
degrees, it's unreasonable to assume that there's any privacy at all
when using wifi devices and it's more than unreasonable to criminalise
anyone listening to what is being broadcast. wifi is not a point to point
link (even wifi connections set up for that purpose aren't actually
point-to-point), it's an omnidirectional broadcast accessible by anyone
within range.

criminalising that would make it illegal to even scan for "open" networks
that you are allowed to use...because it's physically impossible to scan
for those without ALSO detecting any "closed" networks that are in range.

> WiFi is legal here only if operated under a specific Low Interference
> 'class licence' offered on the basis that, while it uses radio
> spectrum also used elsewhere by others, there is very limited prospect
> of interference -- largely because the range of the device is strictly
> limited by a very low wattage power, and few others will be able to
> receive it. This Narrowcast regulatory model is another basis for why
> it is reasonable for technically unsophisticated users (most of us)
> to treat WiFi as different from say operating your own radio station,
> even ham radio. By specific regulatory requirement it is restricted to
> be very local and short range, and is often difficult to receive even
> in the same building because of these power limits (though less so
> with newer N protocols).

wifi Tx power limits have NOTHING to do with privacy legislation. they're
about minimising interference, spectrum management, and licensing.

if you want higher power, get a radio operator's license, there are
many different kinds to suit different needs. 

if you want dedicated - non-shared - bandwidth, buy/rent some of the EM
spectrum.  the govt auctions it off from time to time, and the auction
winners use it themselves AND rent it out for other uses.

> The equivalent of bouncing an infrared beam off house windows to
> eavesdrop conversations inside.

absolutely not!

passively receiving something that is being broadcast is VERY different
to actively snooping.


craig sanders <cas at taz.net.au>

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