Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sitting in your car getting arrested for stealing WiFi

Sam Peterson was arrested under a Michigan law barring access to anyone else's network without authorization; he is being prosecuted for using a cafe's free WiFi from his car. The cafe's WiFi network was reserved for customers – Peterson never came into the Union Street CafĂ© – and instead used its free WiFi from the comfort of his car, every single day. A police officer grew suspicious of Peterson and eventually questioned him as to what he was up to. "I knew that the Union Street had WiFi. I just went down and checked my e-mail and didn't see a problem with that," Peterson told a reporter.

Under Michigan's "Fraudulent access to computers, computer systems, and computer networks" law, Peterson's actions could result in a five-year felony and a $10,000 fine. However, prosecutors do not plan to throw the book at him, as they don't believe that Peterson was aware he was even breaking the law. Instead, he will pay a $400 fine and do 40 hours of community service, and the arrest will not go on his record. Coincidentally, the cafe owner that Peterson was leeching WiFi off of didn't even realize that what Peterson was doing was a crime at the time. Neither did the police officer. "I had a feeling a law was being broken, but I didn't know exactly what," said Sparta police chief Andrew Milanowski.

News source: Ars Technica

My 2 cents:

That's just plain stupid. How can you fine a person USD 400 for using WiFi while in your car outside a coffee shop. I've done this many times. Sometimes I stop at a Mamak stall that has WiFi signal creeping in from a nearby Starbucks cafe. Should I be arrested too?

I can just imagine if there was a mugging or a robbery nearby and we see this cop arresting this innocent young man sitting in his car, checking his email!

That's just wrong.

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