Friday, December 07, 2007

Wi-Fi With Care

A couple new federal rules meant to protect us from two very different things will have a direct effect on property owners who offer Wi-Fi services to their residents. If you put up a hotspot in the clubhouse or by the pool, keep reading...

The first law is called CALEA (Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act) -- it's meant to give law enforcement agencies and the Department of Homeland Security the ability to conduct surveillance. It went into effect earlier this year, and it requires telecommunications carriers and equipment manufacturers to "modify and design their equipment, facilities, and services to ensure that [law enforcement agencies] have the necessary surveillance capabilities."

The way I understand it, if you, the property owner/manager, own any piece of active electronics used to deliver public Wi-Fi (or any other telecommunications service, for that matter) anywhere on your property, you could be obligated to comply with a warrant for information about a user on your network. This means capturing and sending Internet communications in real time to the law enforcement agency or another third party. This can be complicated and expensive, so it's best left to the ISP -- their network should already be CALEA-compliant.

Check with your ISP and your communications attorney to see if you could be subject to CALEA requirements.

Just this week, the House of Representatives voted on legislation called the SAFE Act (Securing Adolescents From Exploitation-Online). While CALEA is meant to protect us from possible terrorists, SAFE is meant to protect us from kiddie porn.

Anyone providing an “electronic communication service” or “remote computing service” to the public who learns about the transmission of certain illegal activities or an illegal image must (a) register a bunch of information with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s “CyberTipline” and (b) “make a report” that must include information about the suspected person or Internet address and the illegal images themselves.
Supposedly, this bill won't require you to police your Internet, but we'll just have to wait and see how the final legislation is interpreted by the courts.

More commentary on the SAFE Act here, here and here.

Wi-Fi is a great amenity to offer -- it's become almost universally available and expected by residents. It's not going to go away anytime soon, either. However, it's increasingly becoming a requirement to outsource the service. Make sure you know what you're getting into before you hang an access point from Best Buy in your leasing office, and consider providing some basic resources about wireless security if you allow your residents to install their own access points.

You didn't really expect them to make this any easier for you, did you?

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