Geek activists sniff Congresswoman’s Wi-Fi

We’re not sure what’s more humorous: That California Rep. Jane Harman, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, maintains two unencrypted Wi-Fi networks at her residence, or that a consumer group sniffed her unsecured traffic in a bid to convince lawmakers to hold hearings about Google.

A representative for Consumer Watchdog…parked outside Harman’s and other lawmakers’ Washington-area residences to determine whether they had unsecured Wi-Fi networks that might have been sniffed by Google as part of the internet giant’s Street View and Google Maps program.

The group wants the House Energy and Commerce Committee, of which Harman is also a member, to haul Google executives before it, so they can publicly explain why, for three years, Google was downloading data packets from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks in neighborhoods in dozens of countries. Google has repeatedly said it didn’t realize it was storing snippets of payload data on unsecured Wi-Fi networks, until German privacy authorities began questioning what data Google was collecting.

Yup. We really need to spend taxpayer dollars to have Google state for the umpteenth time what they were doing. And why. And why they don’t do that anymore.

Consumer Watchdog’s wardriving unintentionally highlights the murky state of wiretapping laws in the United States. According to the text of the federal wiretapping statute, it’s not considered felony wiretapping “to intercept or access an electronic communication made through an electronic communication system that is configured so that such electronic communication is readily accessible to the general public.”

So even if had been deliberate, Google’s sniffing would arguably not have been illegal. For its part, Consumer Watchdog says it only grabbed frame data, not content, in order to enumerate the devices on Harman’s network…

Doesn’t seem especially murky to me. Either flavor.

Two unencrypted networks, Harmanmbr and harmantheater, according to the group, were discovered outside Harman’s residence.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.