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From: live4java at (Mister Coffee)
Subject: Wireless legal to eavesdrop

On Fri, Apr 23, 2004 at 08:21:01AM -0700, D B wrote:

Comments at the end.

<various snipping>

> I have been reading and am wanting some other
> opinions. 
> (g) It shall not be unlawful under this chapter or
> chapter 121 of this title for any person--
>     (i) 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;
>     (ii) to intercept any radio communication which is
> transmitted--
>     (III) by a station operating on an authorized
> frequency within the bands allocated to the amateur,
> citizens band, or general mobile radio services; or
> part III of the above pertains to the bottom 6
> channels of wireless. ( channels 1 - 6 are in the
> amateur radio spectrum )
> Does this mean if someone is not using WEP on those
> channels all their information is as open as something
> I pick up on the police scanner ?
> opinions ?

The initial section where it states that "Available to the general public" should pretty much cover the whole issue.  It's establishing that it's perfectly legal to listen in on unencrypted traffic here.  If you're AP isn't running encrypted, you're effectively broadcasting for all to hear.

The Amature Radio aspect is there because Hams aren't allowed to send encrypted traffic on their bands.  Encoded, yes, (RTTY, etc.) but not encrypted.  Anyone can listen in on Ham traffic (at least in the US - and a good many other countries), but broadcasting requires a license.  That's established in some treaties that pre-date the Internet, and you can find more at the ARRL website (

IANAL, but I think it would be pretty hard to prosecute someone for -listening- (sniffing) unencrypted wireless AP traffic.  Accessing the AP, of course, falls under other clauses.


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