A Canberra man came home to find his iPad stolen and set out to
find it. He switched on the 'Find My iPad' tracker app and
using his mobile phone he tracked the iPad's GPS signal to a
house in another part of the capital.
What happened next would lead to an innovative legal argument
that could have major repercussions for how we all use wireless
access to the internet.
The Canberra Times reported the man, identified only as
Mr S, scouted around the suspect house he'd been led to by the
tracking app, looked in through a window and sent a signal from his
phone activating the stolen tablet.
The iPad gave off a noise that Mr S heard through the window.
Thrilled with his bit of detective work, Mr S went to the police.
Police raided the house and arrested the occupant. Police later
told the ACT Magistrates Court they found Mr S's iPad and a
swag of other stolen goods.
But the occupant's lawyer argued to the court the search was
based on evidence obtained unlawfully because Mr S trespassed on
his client's property to look in the window.
The defence lawyer also made the novel claim Mr S had committed
an "electronic trespass" by sending a signal into his
client's house to set off the iPad alarm.
The lawyer likened electronic trespass to other non-physical
types of trespass such as shining a light into a property or using
force to propel an item or person on to private property.
The prosecutor said this was "absurd", as if
electronic transmission was a trespass, then anybody who had a
wireless router that transmitted wi-fi internet through their home
and into a neighbours property was also committing a trespass.
Magistrate Lorraine Walker dismissed the trespass argument. She
said electronic radio waves were in the public domain, just like a
person's odour could be legally used by a sniffer dog to sniff
She said if sending a radio wave signal into a property was
trespassing, then every time someone turned on a radio the law
would be broken.
Which shows the law isn't always an ass.
But there's an important lesson from this little legal romp.
It's legally a grey area what happens if a neighbour uses your
unsecured home wi-fi signal that is beaming into their property. It
may not be trespass, but if they use your internet connection for
an illegal activity it will be linked back to your ISP account and
you just may be held liable for their internet actions. Secure your
wireless connection and protect yourself.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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The issue of recording telephone calls was recently considered in the Federal Court in Furnari v Ziegert  FCA 1080.
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