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People are putting their routers in jail to protect themselves from harmless Wi-Fi

People are putting their routers in jail to protect themselves from harmless Wi-Fi


Don’t put a Faraday cage on your router, please

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Image: Amazon

Please do not put your internet router in a Faraday cage. Please do not put your internet router in a Faraday cage.

If you’re reading this, as someone who uses the internet, this may seem obvious. A Faraday cage, after all, blocks electromagnetic radiation and signals from escaping. Putting one around your router would, by very similar physics, prevent those same radio waves that carry your internet from reaching your devices.

And yet, an entire cottage industry of con artists looking to make a quick buck by selling “router shields” that claim to fix the issue and protect you and your loved ones from your Wi-Fi has popped up this week.

The grift is a clever one — the Faraday cages are being sold at fairly ridiculous prices for metal boxes (typically between $70 to $100 on Amazon), meaning that sellers are likely making a considerable profit here.

And the products themselves, while based entirely in conspiracy, aren’t entirely lying, unless it’s about their claims that these boxes “should not at all affect signal range and internet speed.”

Putting what effectively amounts to a Faraday cage around your router to block electromagnetic radiation will do exactly that. It’ll block almost all the signal from your router, as any number of the amusing Amazon reviewers complaining about degraded signal strength and internet speeds have learned:

Equally ironic are reviews complaining that the shields aren’t working at all and that their internet is working just fine:

That’s likely due to poorly designed cages — some of them appear to simply be overpriced mesh storage boxes. (Also amusing are the sellers concerned about cheaper “counterfeit” copies of their shields, who have taken to boasting about their “original” designs or US origins to appeal to buyers.)

The conspiracy has been going on for some time, with some Amazon listings that date back years, but catapulted to the spotlight this week after a viral tweet from Twitter user @AnsgarTOdinson. Recent (and equally nonsensical) conspiracies about 5G cellular networks — which operate using similar swaths of the electromagnetic spectrum as Wi-Fi routers — also likely helped contribute to the spread of the conspiracy.

All of this is completely beside the point: routers don’t emit harmful electromagnetic radiation.

As we’ve written many times here at The Verge, nearly all wireless technology — be it AM / FM radio, cellphone networks for calling, LTE, 5G, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and even the IR remote you use to turn on your television — is based on transmitting and receiving signals broadcast on some part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

When we talk about “electromagnetic radiation,” we’re just describing a wave of photons traveling through space. Even light — what you use to see — is a form of electromagnetic radiation, and a harmless one at that (despite having a far higher frequency than any radio or microwaves used for cellular or internet).

Wi-Fi — and 5G internet and all those aforementioned forms of wireless communication — all are fundamentally similar in how they work and are a form of what’s called non-ionizing radiation. Non-ionizing means that it doesn’t have enough energy to move any electrons from atoms and degrade cells, which is the kind of danger that you probably think of when the word “radiation” comes to mind. But it’s just not physically possible for your internet router to do that, and your router is no more of a danger to you than a TV remote or your car’s radio.

Look, I get it. “Radiation” is a scary word, and the idea that your internet router is sending out invisible, harmful energy could be concerning, if it were remotely true. But fortunately, based on all the current scientific evidence (as described by the Food and Drug Administration, the National Cancer Institute, and the American Cancer Society), that “danger” just isn’t there.

Of course, there is a tragedy inherent in debunking this router conspiracy: The Verge is a website, and anyone using one of these router shields may not be able to access the internet to read it.