WiFi Law 101: Legal Compliance and Your Guest Wireless Network

By Jonathan Wagstaffe - January 13, 2015

PV-blog-WiFi-Law-101-Legal-Compliance-and-Your-Guest-Wireless-NetworkSo, you’ve got a guest wireless network, or maybe you’ve been considering rolling out one out for the first time. You’ve done the research, and you’re feeling pretty confident about your hardware choices, network management strategy and planned security measures. All the boxes are checked, and you’ve covered all your bases. Or have you?

Legal compliance is an area of consideration seldom given a second thought when implementing a guest wireless network solution, and it’s not surprising why, considering how vague policies can be, and just how little people know about the laws pertaining to offering or owning a wireless network. And in this instance, ignorance certainly isn’t bliss, as being caught unawares in an infringement could cost you in steep penalties, or make you liable for obstructing the course of justice.

An understanding of the legal acts relating to offering guest wireless access is the key to avoiding all these hassles.

4 Key Legislations to Consider

1. Data Protection act, European Directive for Data Retention Regulations 2009

This protocol deals with the policies relating to the acquisition and storage methodology of data. It describes adherence principles that ultimately allow for the identification of communication data by destination, date, time, duration and type. Communication can also be traced by these principles. According to UK law, communication data must be retained for a minimum of twelve months from the date of communication.

2. Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001

In keeping with the latter legislation, this act also requires the retention of communications data, so that it may be used by law enforcement agencies and the government to bolster anti-crime and anti-terrorism activities.

3. Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000

Pertaining to the principles and regulations of data retention by public bodies, this act stipulates how data surveillance may be conducted by entities in order to ensure national security and state general and economic well being.

4. Digital Economy Act 2010

A media policy-related act, this legislation defines the parameters of copyright infringement, which is important as you could be held liable if an individual on your guest network acts out of accordance with the principles defined in the act. If a user on your network is caught downloading illegally off the internet, you could be faced with steep fines for failing to monitor your network’s usage, and being an accomplice to the crime.

As of July, the new Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act of 2014 has been implemented, which deals with the same concerns as the first two legislations, but also discusses principles relating to communication data sharing between nations. 

So What Next?

To ensure you’re keeping to your legal obligations, look at your guest network objectively. Ask yourself the following questions to determine areas of improvement.

  • How am I storing communications data?

  • Can stored data easily be retrieved if legally required?

  • Is my network safeguarding against illegal downloads and copyright infringement?

Draw up a solid user policy that clearly states that illegal use of your network is in violation of your guest network policies. Block illegal sites that are commonly used for downloading or peer to peer sharing, and flag users attempting to download while on your network. Make sure you have easy access to communications data, and a secure storage solution. By aligning yourself with sound guest network management practices, you’ll be well on your way to offering a legal, secure guest wireless network.


Photo credit: Janitors via photopin cc


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