Should the Wall of Sheep Be Illegal? A Debate Over Whether and How Open WiFi Sniffing Should Be Regulated

Presented at DEF CON 20 (2012), July 27, 2012, 10 a.m. (50 minutes)

Prompted by the Google Street View WiFi sniffing scandal, the question of whether and how the law regulates interception of unencrypted wireless communications has become a hot topic in the courts, in the halls of the FCC, on Capitol Hill, and in the security community. Are open WiFi communications protected by federal wiretap law, unprotected, or some strange mix of the two? (Surprise: it may be the last one, so you'll want to come learn the line between what's probably illegal sniffing and what's probably not.) More importantly, what *should* the law be? Should the privacy of those who use WiFi without encryption be protected by law, or would regulating open WiFi sniffing pose too great a danger to security research and wireless innovation, not to mention DEF CON traditions like the Wall of Sheep? Do we need to protect the sheep from the hackers, or the hackers from the law, or can we do both at the same time? Join legal expert Kevin Bankston and technical expert Matt Blaze as they square off in a debate to answer these questions, moderated by Jennifer Granick. (Surprise: the lawyer is the one arguing for regulation.)


  • Jennifer Granick - General Counsel, Worldstar, LLC
    Jennifer Granick is the General Counsel of Worldstar, LLC. Prior to joining WorldStarHipHop, Granick was an attorney at ZwillGen PLLC from 2010-2012 and the Civil Liberties Director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation from 2007-2010. Previously, Granick served as the Executive Director of the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School where she was a lecturer in law. She founded and directed the Law School's Cyberlaw Clinic where she supervised students in working on some of the most important cyberlaw cases that took place during her tenure. She is best known for her work with intellectual property law, free speech, privacy, and other things relating to computer security, and has represented several high profile hackers. Twitter: @granick
  • Matt Blaze - Director, Distributed Systems Lab at the University of Pennsylvania
    Matt Blaze directs the Distributed Systems Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches hackers to be scientists and scientists to be hackers. Twitter: @mattblaze
  • Kevin Bankston - Senior Counsel & Director of Free Expression, Center for Democracy & Technology
    Kevin Bankston is Senior Counsel and Director of the Free Expression Project at the Center for Democracy & Technology, a Washington, DC-based non-profit organization dedicated to promoting democratic values and constitutional liberties in the digital age. Prior to joining CDT in February 2012, he was a Senior Staff Attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) specializing in free speech and privacy law with a focus on government surveillance, Internet privacy, and location privacy. At EFF, he regularly litigated issues surrounding location privacy and electronic surveillance, and was a lead counsel in EFF's lawsuits against the National Security Agency and AT&T challenging the legality of the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program. From 2003-05, he was EFF's Equal Justice Works/Bruce J. Ennis Fellow, studying the impact of post-9/11 anti-terrorism surveillance initiatives on online privacy and free expression. Before joining EFF, he was the Justice William J. Brennan First Amendment Fellow for the American Civil Liberties Union, where he litigated Internet-related free speech cases. He received his J.D. in 2001 from the University of Southern California and his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas. Twitter: @kevinbankston


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