Finland to decriminalise open Wi-Fi networks

Finland is to decriminalise open Wi-Fi networks after five years of them being illegal.

Finland originally banned the use of unsecured Wi-Fi in 2005 after an elaborate banking scam made use of an open Wi-Fi connection. The head of data security for the Helsinki branch of GE Money stole financial software and customer bank details. He then used an open Wi-Fi connection to transfer large sums of money to a secret bank account he had set up.

Instead of blaming the fact that this guy was in charge of data security and thus had access to all sorts of private data that would allow the scam to occur, the Finnish courts blamed the open Wi-Fi network. New laws were then rushed in to make using open Wi-Fi networks without permission illegal, although actually failing to password secure Wi-Fi was not made a criminal offence. 

The ruling resulted in roughly five and a half million Finns being unable to make use of Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the country, even for completely legitimate reasons. With the rising popularity of smartphones, which are dependent on Wi-Fi for their net access if the 3G or 4G network is turned off, many people complained about the repressive decision.

Recent news has revealed that the Finnish Justice Ministry is preparing to overturn its earlier decision, finally recognising the value of open Wi-Fi and the fact that perhaps it overreacted a little to the GE Money scam, punishing many innocent net users for someone else’s crime. Considering access to the internet is considered a human right in Finland the open Wi-Fi ban seemed a little contradictory.

While it has been illegal to use open Wi-Fi in Finland for the last five years, no one has been prosecuted under the law. A recent case in Germany, however, resulted in an individual being fined for leaving their Wi-Fi connection open.