You guys are misunderstanding this. There's no issue in regards to open public networks. The issue is with collecting data from private networks and doing so without the consent of the network owners. This is where it becomes illegal. Whether the network is open or not, if it's a private network you're still required to gain consent from the network owner before connecting to it. Google had to connect to those networks to collect data from them and did so without the consent or knowledge of the network owners.
Right, so basically the government doesn't understand the difference between encrypted and un-encrypted traffic.
As for private/public networks... If a network is open, how do I know if its intent is for private or public use?
Having an open wi-fi network is no different than me going outside, cranking my stereo to maximum volume, and blaring my music across the neighborhood! If my neighbors choose to listen to the music am I going to sue them because they didn't ask my permission first? Of course not.
Actually your analogy is incorrect. In order to connect to an unsecured network, one must still make a conscious decision to do so (ala clicking on the network and then connect). Put against your analogy, a stereo forces listeners in the vicinity to hear it. The difference is major in a court of law. In one case(your analogy) you can't do anything to prevent it and in another case you are consciously violating the law.
Just because a wifi-network is open does not give you the right to use it. It's use or disruption of another person's service without permission and should carry a stiff penalty. If you happen to find an open network, alert the owner of the risks. That's all a good citizen can do
"But alas, Google was rejected by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. "Surely Congress did not intend to condone such an intrusive and unwarranted invasion of privacy when it enacted the Wiretap Act to protect against the unauthorized interception of electronic communications," the Appeals Court ruled (pdf)."
@thor220, not entirely so. The main reason that I'm going to atest the fact that you claim it's not wiretapping is that your WiFi card in your computer has to interpret evey packet of data it receives to even be able to interpret that data to "see" what networks are even out in the wild to connect to.
So bam right there you have "accessed" some data that was sent from the access points radio itself. Essentially tapping into that ping of data that was sent, similar even in nature to sound, in the fact that the radio waves will hit everything near by; a better comparison might be to compare this to light as it hit's everything in it's resonate line of sight.
Some folks around here sound like the burglar who gets caught burgling a house who's owner didn't lock the door . . . "Well if he didn't want his house to be burgled, then why did he leave his front door unlocked?"
The analogy is exact. Just because someone fails to secure their Wifi network, does not mean that it is a public utility. To intentionally access that network is still an invasion of privacy and theft of service.
It is the one legitimate claim that has been used to get child pornography charges based on site access dropped, because other people had access to the network and could have downloaded those files.
LOL, 9th circuit "Court". The biggest embarrassment since the last election. Their drug induced decisions are the laughing stock of our legal community, and their "rulings" are overturned at a higher rate than people change their underwear. I can only assume that there has to be a high concentration of paint fumes at their homes to explain what they pass off as their day jobs.
I'm sorry, but this is horsesh!t. Anything sent in the clear over radio is by definition not private. If your computer/router responds to a plain-text request sent in the clear and then sends that response in the clear, you just consented to making that data public.
Now, apply even the most rudimentary level of encryption, and you have a legal expectation of privacy. Wiretapping is different because it requires a physical interaction with a wire pair carrying unencrypted data that would not otherwise be receivable. Therein lies the invasion of privacy.
The real non-computer analogy that applies is not sound or burglary, but rather what level of privacy you can expect in regard to passersby on the street while your curtains are open or closed. If they're open, you really have no basis to complain if someone is standing on the street and watching you. If they're closed, you have a right to expect people not to walk up to the window and try to peek through any gap they can find.
I believe the U.S. court of appeals wiretap ruling is flawed. I would say that if Google had collected information from open unsecured wireless networks, especially if they captured it from the streetview car while on the street, then they should be exonerated. This is akin to walking down the sidewalk, and viewing your neighbors in compromising situations or their belongings or goods when they have their curtains wide open. There is no expectation of privacy if those acts or your belongings are viewed from the public venue. On the other hand, If you walked up to your neighbors windows, while their shades were drawn, and tried to peek inside, your neighbors not only have the expectation of a right to privacy, but you would also be trespassing.
@catswold: no its not "exact" because a burglar doesnt break in just to watch tv while the owner is watching it and then leaves when they are done. If I was breaking into their router and changing their password THEN Id be stealing their internet... an open connection is tantamount to putting a welcome mat on your door. It says welcome that means anyone is welcome to enter. My MCSE teacher told me that there had been court cases lost because the MOTD on someone's FTP server said welcome at the beginning which meant that anyone who gained access had the right to download anything they were able to access. Dont confuse stealing something outright (which deprives the owner of that object) and sharing (or in the case of p2p networks making a copy of) something.