The EFF wants to improve your privacy by making your Wi-Fi public

Could allowing strangers to use your Wi-Fi actually protect your privacy?

Conventional wisdom dictates that to maintain your security and privacy, you should encrypt your Wi-Fi network. But what if the conventional wisdom is wrong? The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) argues that partially opening up your home Wi-Fi network could actually enhance your privacy, and is working on a tool to make it easier to do so.

According to Wired, the EFF will release free firmware for Wi-Fi routers that will "let you share a portion of your Wi-Fi network, password-free, with anyone nearby." The software, called "Open Wireless Router," is part of the EFF's initiative, which aims to make free wireless Internet as ubiquitous as possible.

The idea here is that by opening up your network to strangers, not only are you being a good neighbor, but traffic on your network can't necessarily be tracked back to you--a potential boon for those for whom privacy is sacrosanct.

Opening your Wi-Fi network to strangers has its risks. It can allow anyone to eat up your bandwidth, and in some cases, it can lead to legal headaches. Wired points to a man in Buffalo, New York, who was suspected of downloading child pornography after his neighbor used his open Wi-Fi network for said illicit purposes.

To mitigate these concerns, the Open Wireless Router firmware will cap public access to as little as 5 percent of your bandwidth: This way, you can allow someone to check Gmail from your Wi-Fi, for example, while discouraging them from downloading a multi-gigabyte file.

As for the latter issue, the team says it plans to "integrate an option to route guest traffic over the anonymity software Tor or a VPN that ties it to a different IP address" in a future version of the firmware, Wired reports.

The EFF will officially release the Open Wireless Router firmware at next month's Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) conference.

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