Public Wi-Fi is widely available in many European countries and a lot of us have become used to the convenience of FREE public wireless connections. This may come to an end in France. Officials are considering shutting down public Wi-Fi during certain states of emergencies. If you guessed that all of this is fueled by the recent terrorist attacks in Paris during the month of November, then you are correct!

There are not a lot of details yet on what this proposed ban on public Wi-Fi will include. What we know is that the french newspaper “Le Monde” published a leaked document that suggest there are two proposed bills that the French Ministry of Interior is considering. According to that same leaked report the French police is asking for more powers. Outlawing the use of free / public Wi-Fi during states of emergency is one. The other is a little too far reaching. They are asking to make the use of “Tor” (free software for anonymous Internet browsing) be illegal.

The reasoning behind the proposed changes is of course to make tracking suspects easier.

Now to the real question – Even if France did enact a law that prohibits public Wi-Fi during certain states of emergency, it will not be easy to actually enforce it. I was in France this summer and I can tell you that public Wi-Fi is so widespread that such a law will technically be impossible to enforce. Free Wi-Fi networks are everywhere. Many cities have municipal Wi-Fi networks, museums, libraries, private residences, small businesses they all have public Wi-Fi networks. The web of public Wi-Fi is to far reaching to be effectively controlled.

On the other hand the French government can effectively control the use of “Tor”. It is not easy but it is definitely obtainable. China has blocked the anonymity software with its so-called “Golden Shield Project” also known as the “Great Firewall of China”.

Everything we know so far is based on the leaked internal document that “Le Monde” published, so things will most likely change a lot and there will be a lot of speculation. The only thing we can do right now is think about the potential upside/downside (depending on which side of the fence you are) that a law like that can have on a larger scale. Think multi-country or global effect that this can have if used for good. Let me know what you think.