After a few more email exchanges with Heather Green, it has become apparent that the original freenetworks.org reference was an unintentional error on BW’s part. It’s difficult to tell from their online edition, but the print edition is actually three separate pieces about how people are using Wi-Fi. In the print edition, it is obvious that Heather Green was one contributor (of four) on the piece that accused FreeNetworks of posting vulnerable private wlan information. And in the greater context of all of the pieces, it does seem (to me, anyway) that they are getting closer to reporting on what community networks are all about.
At any rate, they have promised to print a correction (although their online edition has yet to be updated…) While the initial mistake was unfortunate (and shouldn’t have happened in the first place, considering how long Schuyler, Matt, and others were interviewed) it appears that they do intend to correct it.
I received this response from Heather Green. They are evidently going to print a retraction. The damage is already done, but it’s good to see at least an attempt at repairs…
From: Heather Green Date: Tue Apr 23, 2002 10:46:16 AM US/Pacific To: Rob Flickenger Subject: Re: "All Net, All the Time" Thanks for your email. I appreciate you pointing this out. We absolutely will run a correction. It was an unfortunate mistake. Rob Flickenger wrote: I'm sure you've received plenty of complaints before this, so I'll keep it brief. Your article posted at: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/02_17/b3780009.htm ...clearly accuses FreeNetworks.org (http://freenetworks.org) of encouraging people to engage in computer trespassing, by publishing the location of unprotected wireless access points. FreeNetworks.org is a central aggregation point for organizers of community networks, and has never encouraged anyone to engage in illegal activities. There are no network maps posted to the site, nor have there ever been (unless you count the stylized "from space" view of free and LEGAL open networks on the front page.) Your remarks are incorrect, inappropriate, and alarmist. As these facts are easily verified online (and, indeed, in a number of people I know that you interviewed while researching this piece) I expect that it is simply an editorial oversight, and will be repaired post haste. I expect an apology and printed retraction in your next issue. --Rob Flickenger Author, "Building Wireless Community Networks", O'Reilly & Associates Founder, http://nocat.net/
An otherwise uninspired article grabbed my attention with the following little gem:
“Some Wi-Fi aficionados hunt down unprotected networks that anyone can use to surf the Web surreptitiously. In tech havens like New York and Silicon Valley, these laptop-toting enthusiasts put $50 antennas into their computers and ride around town sniffing out corporate networks. They then post maps with the locations at Web sites like Freenetworks.org.”
Beyond alarmist, this statement is simply wrong. The editors have obviously failed to recognize that not only are FreeNetworks.org (an excellent information aggregation point for Wireless Community Network organizers) and NetStumbler.com (the home page of an excellent network analysis tool for 802.11b) completely different sites, they are in no way affiliated.
FreeNetworks has never promoted network discovery and trespassing, and suggesting that it does can only serve to further sensationalize a story that doesn’t exist.
YES, it is possible to setup insecure networks. YES, some people will always exploit systems for their own profit. But Community Networks aren’t about theft, they’re about solidarity and the fundamental desire for people to communicate with each other. Equating the efforts of FreeNetworks to the tabloid exploits of common network crackers may sell more magazines, but it’s still an insult. And it’s a lie.
Do you think that the recent Business Week article is misleading?