Over five (5) years ago back in February of 2007, an unidentified woman referred to as ‘JH’ in previous court documents, logged onto one of her neighbors unsecured wireless networks because her network was not available at the time.
While surfing the internet and viewing various sites, JH came across several unsecured images posted and visited by her neighbor, Ahrndt.
The network being used by Ahrndt (the neighbor) was using the Belkin 54G router. Unfortunately, the router was set to “no security” as a default giving other users the access to view his visited sites and information.
While viewing this information, JH went to the iTunes link and was able to view another library that was available for sharing- not of her own – titled “Dad’s LimeWire Tunes”. As she opened the folder for additional viewing, she noticed that several titles within the iTunes were sexually explicit in nature. Many of the titles included unknown acronyms leaving one to guess the context of the iTunes.
After viewing some of the titles, JH immediately contacted her local police agency to report a potential crime not only that was against the law, but against moral values as well.
After the Washington County Sheriff’s Department was contacted, one of the Sheriff’s Deputies, John McCullough, quickly responded in less than an hour. After his arrival, he took JHs statement, however, was not familiar with this particular law and immediately called his Supervisor for further direction. After speaking with his supervisor, his superior verbally advised him to open the files to view the content.
Within the iTunes file names, the deputy indicated that he opened the files, and saw certain words that included the verbiage ‘getting raped’ and /or ‘being raped’. Once he actually hyperlinked on the file, displayed were images of children being abused.
A US Judge in the State of Oregon ruled that just because child abuse images were viewed by a neighbor using an unsecured wireless network does not give the law the right to further log onto the site and search on the images. Ironically, this ruling is the reversal of the Judges’ previous ruling that actually convicted the offender, John Henry Ahrndt – an already convicted sex offender.
According to Judge Garr M. King, the Fourth Amendment protects citizens against unreasonable or unjustifiable searches. In a January 17th ruling, the judge goes on to state that once the Deputy continued his search on the iTunes files as advised by his Supervisor, it violated the fourth amendment. Per the Judge:
Although Ahrndt admitted to downloading the files eight (8) months prior to being caught by law enforcement officials, there is no evidence that (Ahrndt) intentionally enabled sharing of his files over his wireless network, and there is no evidence he knew or should have known that others could access his files by connecting to his wireless network. The deputy’s action of clicking on the image in the iTunes directory to open the image violated Ahrndt’s Fourth Amendment rights.
Ahrndt goes on to state that these files had already been deleted long before the police obtained the necessary search warrants. However, the files were never deleted from the external hard drive – this could result in the police discovering the deleted files. Many computer amateurs are not aware of files that can be “left-over” after potential deletion………
Investigators went on to extract the files including those that were deleted and found among them the following items:
Is the real debate the fact that a neighbor used an unsecured wireless network to view criminal activity? Or is the debate the fact that the police officer viewed criminal activity with a police warrant?
If the sight is unsecured, is it a true violation of the fourth amendment?
Just as users post messages on Facebook and it is considered ‘public information’, unsecured sights should also be viewed as ‘public information’.
Is this now a question of violating rights or reporting criminal activity?
Wireless Network Law. You be the judge.