Technical Illiteracy, the Courts and Open Wifi

Technical IlliteracyGreat article from Salon about the growing problem of technical illiteracy of judges on the US Supreme Court, and the possible effects that it will have on all of us. Some of the examples that are given are truly shocking. Unfortunately, there really doesn’t seem to be any easy magical solution to this problem that will plague us for years.

All of this is very interesting stuff, but why discuss it here on a blog that deals with the security of home routers? Well, simply because things like this have huge implications when we start to discuss things like running a wireless network that has at least part of it completely open, such as the new firmware that’s being developed by the Open Wireless Movement and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Ideas like this are great and provide a great service for all of us.

But one of the big stumbling points to running such a system is what happens when one of your anonymous guests does something illegal on your network and it’s traced back to you? Proponents of open WiFi will simply handwave it away and discount it as a non-issue. You are innocent, so the truth will win out. Right? Well, maybe not if the court doesn’t know enough to understand all of the facts. And the facts will not point to your innocence unless you are technically savvy enough to fully understand them. Child porn downloads coming from your IP address using your laptop’s MAC address looks like a pretty open and shut case. Until ….. you consider that that MAC address was easily spoofed and coming from your neighbor. Oops, hope the court can understand that.

And there’s the problem. If the SCOTUS has a tough time with things like this and they certainly do, a lessor court will probably be even worse. Is it reasonable to put your freedom and reputation on the line for an altruistic act? We say no.