Why I Don’t Run an Open WiFi Network

There are two things I’d like to do but don’t because some jackass taking advantage of my kindness could lead me to legal trouble. The first is run a Tor exit node. I love Tor and believe the benefits of having an anonymity network are great, especially in countries where the government works very hard to suppress free speech. Number two on my list of things I’d like to do but don’t is run an open WiFi access point. I would be more than happy to provide an access point for anybody to use if they need Internet access, especially if the people in need can’t afford Internet access themselves (my connection is a corporate account so my terms of service would easily allow me to do something like this). Sadly as Bruce Schneier points out the consequence of being a good Samaritan are often incredibly high:

The three stories all fall along the same theme: a Buffalo man, Sarasota man, and Syracuse man all found themselves being raided by the FBI or police after their wireless networks were allegedly used to download child pornography. “You’re a creep… just admit it,” one FBI agent was quoted saying to the accused party. In all three cases, the accused ended up getting off the hook after their files were examined and neighbors were found to be responsible for downloading child porn via unsecured WiFi networks.

Any traffic going through an open WiFi network or a Tor exit node traces back to the IP address of the person operating them. Thus if somebody uses them to do something illegal the ISP will see it as you doing that illegal act and you’ll have the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) storming through your door and probably shooting your kenneled dog.