Smells Like Less Privacy

A federal court in Illinois recently held that a person can intercept communications on a public, unencrypted wireless network using a technique called “sniffing”without violating the federal Wiretap Act. The issue arose in a patent litigation case. The plaintiff complained that various restaurants and coffee shops were infringing its patent by making wireless internet technology to their customers. As part of discovery, plaintiff’s technicians went to some of the locations and were able to intercept data packets travelling between a wireless router and devices communicating with that router. The plaintiff argued that it was not liable under the Wiretap Act because that Act exempts from its coverage the interception of communications on networks readily available to the public. The court considered the argument that, because the interception was made possible only with an adapter and associated software, the interception communication was not “readily available.” But the court reasoned that since the adapter only costs $198.00 and the software is available for free on the internet, the communication was readily available. I just got back from a presentation about generational marketing. According to the speaker, there are 5 separate generations alive and well in our country – ranging from a group that is 86 and above and the millennials, which range in age from 18 – 30. His point is that each generation looks at life based on its own life experiences. I suspect there is a generation reaction to this case. Older folks like me (I am a second wave baby boomer) probably look at this result as a gross invasion of privacy. Younger folks, I suspect, view it with shoulder shrug, and blame the person who sent the message over the unsecured network. It appears for now that the shoulder shrug is the appropriate reaction.