French Law Would Change U.S. Free WiFi Networks As We Know Them if Adopted Here

Ever wondered how laws in other countries could change the way we operate if they were activated in the United States? 

We wonder about this all the time as it relates to IT.

Here’s an example: last October, five bar and cafe managers in the French city of Grenoble were taken into custody for running open WiFi networks without keeping required logs. In France this violates a law that requires establishments to keep WiFi logs of past connected users and to maintain a one-year log history at all times.

Despite the law being in effect for 14 years, the owners claimed they were unaware of it and had no idea such a law would apply to them. Their internet providers did not notify them, and it was not included in industry-wide legal requirements either.  The law stipulates it not only applies to internet service providers (ISPs) but also to “persons” who provide internet access. As an “internet” cafe of sorts, these establishments were subject to this law.

If this became law in the United States, what would it mean for ISPs and persons who provide guest internet access? 

  1. Supported on most commercial routers, connection logging identifies a specific person. Countries worldwide have begun introducing data logging laws for local ISPs to increase record keeping and compliance.
  2. Increased record keeping supports law enforcement agencies, who often rely on this data to detect malicious behavior or to track down criminals. If a suspect has committed a crime using a public WiFi network, law enforcement can then use the data or footage to help prove the crime.
  3. While there is a case for increased logging, there is no question that these laws limit privacy. 

If this became law in the United States, it would undoubtedly change the characteristics of free WiFi as we know them. If you manage a free WiFi network or have questions in general about managing WiFi networks, our team can help. Contact PK Tech here.