Anti-porn Bill Could Impact All Open Wi-Fi Networks

Anyone with an open Wi-Fi network could find themselves shouldered with new responsibilities if a bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives becomes law. The bill requires anyone with a wireless network thatis open to the public to report any illegal images that pass through their network -- including "obscene cartoons and drawings" -- or face fines up to US$300,000, according to CNET News.

The SAFE bill, or Securing Adolescents From Exploitation-Online Act, is intended to help law enforcement with investigating and prosecuting people that use the Internet to distribute child pornography images. The side effect, however, is that anyone with an open Wi-Fi network will be required to comply with the law even if they operate a personal wireless network without a password.

While itis always a good idea to password protect your wireless network to help keep unwanted people out, this bill should give private network users more incentive to ensure they are keeping their Base Stations locked down. An open network could potentially lead to unexpected liability if a passerby uses the access point to find or share child pornography. It could also cause some businesses that offer free Wi-Fi service to shut down their open networks.

The SAFE bill must still pass the U.S. Senate before becoming law, which could take months.