The ethics of “stealing” wifi

In Geek Stuff, Online on January 5, 2008 at 1:01 pm

free wifi

Original, full article available at Ars Technica:

It’s time to put an end to this silliness. Using an open WiFi network is no more “stealing” than is listening to the radio or watching TV using the old rabbit ears. If the WiFi waves come to you and can be accessed without hacking, there should be no question that such access is legal and morally OK.

The argument that using open WiFi networks deprives ISPs of significant revenue is also a red herring. Take the case of public WiFi hotspots: official hotspots aren’t that difficult to find in major cities—every public library in Chicago has open WiFi, for instance. Are the public libraries and the countless other free hotspot providers helping defraud ISPs? No, they’re not. There’s no law that using the Internet requires payment of a fee to an ISP, and the myriad public hotspots prove this.

A couple of caveats: be familiar with the law of the land. As the examples at the beginning of this story show, it’s illegal to access a WAP without permission—even if it’s wide open—in some places. Also, you should never use an open point for anything illegal or even unneighborly. Don’t log onto the first “linksys” WAP you see and fire up a torrent for your favorite, just-released Linux distro.

One thing the article does not address is where the responsibility lies for those not technically savvy enough to secure their wifi access points and are therefore unknowingly sharing their Internet connection.

Also as an aside, does anybody know if sharing our streamyx-wifi is legal?


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