Sun, Aug. 15, 2010

No Crime: Third-Party Wifi Connection

CK - Washington.Does connecting to a stranger's WIFI constitute a crime? Courts in Germany law interpreted the law differently. The most recent decision, in the matter 20 Ds-10 Js 1977/08-282/08, found no crime.

As a matter of societal and legal policy, the decision is sensible. As smartphones, laptops, PDAs and other mobile devices roam, they can link up with routers automatically, and routers automatically offer Wifi connections. The court decided the matter, however, on narrow statutory grounds. The Wifi connection can occur without the intent or knowledge of the device's owner.

A trial court in Wuppertal tested various criminal statutes, ranging from data protection to systems invasion. On August 3, 2010, the court concluded that the device does not seek protected data through the WIFI router. The router's provision of an IP address does not constitute an invasion. The data received by the mobile device, such as the router-assigned IP address, does not fall within the scope of identifiable personal data which the law intends to protect.

As to non-criminal liability, the German Supreme Court in Karlsruhe had recently decided that contributory infringement liability may attach to leaving a Wifi router open to public access. That court may have misunderstood in its May 12, 2010 decision long-standing rules that have granted communications providers immunity for the acts of their users.

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