Novi Sad, You're Doing It Right

I’m currently wrapping up after having given a presentataion on changing the world in Novi Sad, Serbia. To my astonishment, the city has a fully-built city-wide wifi without login.

I always enjoy traveling East Europe, as the cities and environments are so asymmetrical compared to West Europe. For instance, I walked around the entire city center yesterday trying to buy a mouse for my laptop, to no avail. There simply weren’t any electronics stores at all.

However, what I did find was even more amazing. Despite not having any visible consumer electronics, there is a city-wide wifi with the name GradNoviSad — meaning The City of Novi Sad — that does present you with a splash screen, but does not require any identity or credentials. The splash, I guess, is an attempt to say a polite “Hi and thank you for using Novi Sad’s network”.

Apart from being a very sound infrastructure investment, with the best imaginable bang for the buck, this is the best imaginable whistleblower cover and protection against corruption. Letting anybody be able to post anything from anywhere in the city anonymously is one of the best ways there is to keep elected leaders and civil servants accountable for how they serve the public.

Plus, of course, it’s tip-of-the-spear infrastructure.

Novi Sad, you’re doing it right.

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot.

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Discussion

  1. Bert Vermeulen

    Not having to provide login credentials is no guarantee for anonymity — far from it. Clearly, there was a captive portal (that’s the splash screen). That means all your traffic was going through a transparent proxy, and the network can log which sites you visit.

    Your WIFI interface’s MAC address would have been logged as well, which, if you didn’t change it before/after the session, identifies your laptop pretty uniquely.

    I bet you got a HTTP cookie from that portal as well.

    1. DavidXanatos

      just use a disposable netbook

      1. PiratGurra

        Well, I don’t know how many can afford to buy a new netbook every now and then.. They still cost like.. at least hundreds of dollars. I think erasing cookies and switching/circulating ~15$ wifi usb sticks amongst the population will be more efficient.

    2. PiratGurra

      Creating a tradition of informal USB stick switches amongst the population together with “wiping” your cookies every now and then could avoid that… And there’s the possibility of using VPNs/darknets of course.

  2. Ivan

    That is not true – wi-fi is available only on few spots (near center, campus, around parks).

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Really? I saw it everywhere I walked.

      1. Que

        Pay no attention to Ivan. Its the irony of being a citizen of ones own country, sometimes you have no idea what’s available and need a stranger to come in and tell you about it.
        I’m serous about this. Not sure why it is that way, but everywhere I’ve been around the world, the people that live there have very little clue about what their own country has.
        Things like night clubs or free transport seems to be oblivious to the ones living just a few meters from their location.

  3. pelpet

    The MAC adress can be changed through software but all traffic can also be monitored. If you don’t trust the network, encrypt as much communication as possible. And even if you trust the network, encrypt everything you can for your own and other’s safety.

  4. Anonymous

    Greeting from Belgrade, Serbia.

    A quick search of the Serbian internet shows that it’s not the city council, but a firm called Informatika A.D. (Informatics (Stock Company)). Nothing to do with our backwards govement, I’m afraid to say.

    At least the fact that they are backwards is shielding us for the time being from the progressiveness of the western goverments (lobbies) as well…

  5. Dennis Nilsson

    Why use a”disposable netbook” when you could use Linux LiveCD!?
    Like this one, it’s free;, PCLinuxOS http://www.pclinuxos.com/?s=download

    With a Linux LiveCD you never levae any traces at your netbook. It’s easy to also change the MAC-adress.

    When you reboot you get anew fresh version of the OS.

  6. Dennis Nilsson

    Novi Sad has also a great public radiostation with local news talk and great local music talents, Radio Novi Sad,

    Listen here to Radio Novi Sad, It’s only in serbian language:
    http://82.117.194.13:9020/listen.pls

    For ordinary modern western poppy music style, Radio AS is good:
    http://109.206.96.95:8000/listen.pls

  7. pop

    Rick, check this out!!
    http://twitter.com/#!/maxkeiser/status/124064963823271936

    Max Keiser: “#ows already has a political party to affiliate with that is popping up all over the world; the pirateparty is #ows’s political party”

  8. Cyrus Farivar

    Nearly all the public WiFi hotspots in Estonia are available also without a login screen, etc. See wifi.ee for details.

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