French bar owners arrested for offering free WiFi but not keeping logs

Posted on Sep 30, 2020 by Caleb Chen
French bar owners arrested for not keeping logs on their public WiFi

At least five bar owners in Grenoble, France have been arrested for providing WiFi at their businesses without keeping logs. The bar owners were arrested under a 2006 law that technically classifies WiFi hotspot providing establishments as ISPs, and require them to store one year’s worth of logs or connection records for anti terrorism purposes. This requirement is in place even if the WiFi network is password protected.

The law No. 2006-64 extends the traditional ISP logging requirements “to all persons who, in respect of an activity primary or secondary professional, offer the public a connection allowing on-line communication via network access, including free of charge.” Violating this crime means that the owner of a small cafe that offers WiFi to patrons could face up to one year in prison and up to a 75,000 euro fine.

All businesses in France providing WiFi to the public are required to log

That all public WiFi hotspots in France are required by law to be logging shouldn’t be too surprising. BFM Business noted that most large providers of free WiFi like hotels, conference centers, airports, and such do so with business packages that include this logging. However, it seems that most people aren’t aware that even small businesses like bars, cafes, nightclubs, and restaurants that offer WiFi to their patrons are faced with these logging requirements. One of the arrested bar owners noted that the relevant organization, Umih, never noted this requirement when renewing his license:

“Nobody, not even the professionals of Umih who provide compulsory training as part of a license IV resumption, to me never said I should keep this history.”

In response to questions by BFM Business, Umih admitted that the training doesn’t mention WiFi logging but noted that Umih members should have known about this important requirement because it was mentioned in a newsletter.

If anything, this piece of dystopian news highlights the state of surveillance in France and the desperate need for online privacy there, as well. Small business owners in France need to make sure that they are in compliance with the laws; similarly, public WiFi users in France need to make sure they never connect without a VPN.