Wireless Piggybacking Is Still Not A Problem

from the victimless-crime dept

For years, we've been pointing out that there's nothing unethical about borrowing an open wireless connection. Unfortunately, the stories on this subject just keep getting more hysterical. The latest example is a story from the UK that dubs the offense "wi-fi tapping" and reports that more than half of computer users have engaged in the practice, which it claims is illegal in the UK. Now, you might think that the fact that a majority of otherwise law-abiding Brits have engaged in piggybacking would be a reason to re-consider the law against it, but instead the story takes the opposite tack, sternly lecturing readers about the need to abstain from borrowing Internet access. Unfortunately, they never get around to explaining what's supposed to be wrong with it. They point out that people sometimes do illegal things with a borrowed wi-fi connection, but that's like saying you should never allow anyone to borrow your car because they might run someone over with it. And they insist that it's not a victimless crime because "A crime is perpetrated against the person who pays for the internet connection." But that's just circular logic. It's quite possible the owner of the network left it open on purpose, and in any event, if the piggybacker is just checking his email or engaging in light web surfing, the bandwidth being consumed is trivial. The "victim" is unlikely to even notice, and he certainly doesn't suffer any serious harm. Of course, there might be legitimate reasons, either security- or bandwidth-related, why someone would want to lock down his or her network. It's certainly worthwhile to educate users about the pros and cons of leaving your network open, and to provide them with directions for locking down their network if they wish to do so. But the police have much more important things to do than harassing people whose only crime is a compulsive need to check their email.

Filed Under: freeloaders, open access, uk, wifi


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  1. identicon
    sam, 15 Nov 2007 @ 1:11pm

    tim....

    i pay for the service. you did not. the fact that it might be open, and you can tap/access it, is irrelevant. if i've chosen to open it for others, then you're completely right, and it's open for access.

    if i haven't meant for anyone to access it, you're taking advantage of something that i've paid without my permission.

    now, i know you're going to have a straw argument that deals with music/light/etc coming from my place... not the same. all you can do with music/light is deal with it in a passive manner. with the net, you are accessing "my" equipment.

    you either get it, or you don't. and if you don't get it, you surely shouldn;t mind, if i find where you live, and take advantage of some of your services, like tap into your electricity, or your water line, or the gas in your car?

    the only way you make this arguement, is to try to have a bait/swicth and claim that digital is different...

    peace.

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