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The W - Internet & Computers - Ethical question: Is piggybacking really stealing?
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Oliver
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Since: 20.6.02
From: #YEG

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#1 Posted on | Instant Rating: 4.06
Question: if someone has wireless Internet available and doesn't enable encryption on it, would those who access it be considered stealing?

The story: I recently moved, and with the craziness that are the holidays, a girlfriend, and a new job, I haven't had the time to get my high speed internet access up and running. After futzing around with my PSP, I found out that there's a computer shop across the street from me that has a wireless access point. Better yet,they do not have their WEP encryption enabled, so I've been able to access the internet with relative ease...even from my notebook, which has an older wireless card. The signal isnt' strong, but if I sit on the couch by my window, and have my wireless card directly pointed at the office, it comes in decently.

So, the question is...would accessing his wireless access point be considered stealing, or would he basically be considered a public hotspot? A few places that I access the Web wirelessly have their services publically advertised, whether it be on their respective websites (like the Vancouver public library) or a coffeeshop in the downtown core (which has a couple of signs in the window). However, I've passed this place during walks, and I don't see anything saying that they offer free wireless access.

I don't use their access for anything more than checking my email, reading the news, other minor stuff...and, I'm still planning on the high speed internet access...but I still wonder about the ethics of it all.

Thanks;

Oliver



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Sec19Row53
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Since: 2.1.02
From: Oconomowoc, WI

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#2 Posted on | Instant Rating: 6.93
Well, sure, it's stealing, because you're not paying for it.

Is it ethical? I'm less sure there. If they are allowing their wireless network to be accessed, it's sort of their problem. If you aren't interfering with their normal traffic, I wouldn't see it as an ethical problem.
DrHogie
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Since: 2.1.02
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#3 Posted on | Instant Rating: 5.00
Well, personally, I'd contact the shop owner and ask their permission. Yes, if the guy runs a computer shop, and he doesn't know how to secure a WAP, he has no business running a computer shop, but that's neither here nor there.

To use an analogy: If you leave your front door wide open while watching TV, and someone else comes in and starts watching TV as well in your own apartment without your permission -- are they breaking the law?



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Since: 28.1.02
From: Louisville, KY

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#4 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.09
    Originally posted by Sec19Row53
    Well, sure, it's stealing, because you're not paying for it.

    Is it ethical? I'm less sure there. If they are allowing their wireless network to be accessed, it's sort of their problem. If you aren't interfering with their normal traffic, I wouldn't see it as an ethical problem.


Hmmmm - Well, it isn't stealing if you're not paying for it it. Because we all use stuff we're not paying for. (water fountains, darn Canucks on good old US of A roads, ect) It might be stealing if he doesn't have permission to use it. For example, let's say that neighbors A and B live bext to each other and they have shared a water connection and an electrical plug that each of them has on their houses (A has a water connection, B has an electrical outlet) for many years. Eventually, A moves. Summer comes and B needs to water his posies, so he gets water from A's hose and the NEW A gets mad and calls the cops. B is stealing. But in scenario 2, B explains his situation, and the New A says, "Sure". It's not stealing.

If it is stealing, it is unethical by definition.

So go across the street, tell the guys what you have noticed, ask if you can piggyback for a few weeks for your email and everything's hunkydory. They probably won't care too much.





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Since: 30.1.02
From: South Georgia

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#5 Posted on | Instant Rating: 4.56
I guess I wouldn't feel bad about using their wireless connection as long as they aren't being charged for the bandwidth that you are using and you don't expose them to some form of liability (illegal filesharing) or endanger their network with *virii. I doubt you could find out for sure whether they are paying a flat fee or a rate without revealing what you are doing, but maybe some other W's know how ISPs charge their commercial customers.

Ethics being the personal issue that they are, Oliver, you are the only person that can answer your question. My ethics would allow me to use it until I could set up my own connection, but I would also feel required to tell them about it after the fact and offer compensation if I found out that I cost them money. But my ethos is not yours. How do you feel about using their wireless connection?

Regardless of your decision, it wouldn't hurt to alert them to what you discovered eventually. They may intend for it to be public and, if not, you may gain some goodwill out of it for letting them know about this glaring security oversight.

*virii = multiple of virus

*edit: Actually, I prefer AWARulz take on this. I will leave this so people can contrast what I said with what he said....

(edited by rinberg on 5.1.06 1632)

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Since: 16.4.02
From: Green Bay, WI

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#6 Posted on | Instant Rating: 4.25
God bless the men of 2nd Bn, 127th Inf, 32d "Red Arrow" Brigade, WI Army Nat'l Guard...good luck, and come home soon.

I hate to disagree with AWARulz, but everybody using stuff like roads (even Canadians...that's what tolls are for :-) ) and public bubblers (water fountains to you non-cheeseheads) ain't stealing...

...because those are bought and paid for with tax dollars, designed specifically FOR public use.

Back to the wireless access question...I would say it is stealing. If they're not advertising "Free Wi-Fi Access Around Here, C'mon Down," and you're not a customer, and you're not on their grounds, you're using their resources without compensation. Stealing? Legality's questionable. Ethical? Heck no.

To modify Dr. Hoagie's TV example: it's like the shop has 2 TV's, one of which you can see very nicely through your window, and your remote control works on their TV. Should you be flipping through their channels, especially if it might make their other TV not work quite as well? No.

But like others have said, just ask their permission. You might even end up with a good business-customer relationship.





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Since: 11.12.01
From: Catlin IL

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#7 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.19

It's like using an illegal satellite descrambler. Just because you can access what is basically a radio signal doesn't mean you have a right to use it for personal gain.



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Since: 28.1.02
From: Louisville, KY

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#8 Posted on | Instant Rating: 6.76
    Originally posted by The Thrill
    I hate to disagree with AWARulz, but everybody using stuff like roads (even Canadians...that's what tolls are for :-) ) and public bubblers (water fountains to you non-cheeseheads) ain't stealing...

    ...because those are bought and paid for with tax dollars, designed specifically FOR public use.


Not a fountain in, say, my building.Now you might think that since I put it there that it was OK for you to use it. I didn't say it was stealing, I said it was using something without paying for it. And Those damn Canucks CAN come in without paying a toll in some places. They just drive round TRYING to cause Potholes by running over week-old Tim Horton Doughnut holes, then heading back north.

The bastards.





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Since: 21.2.02
From: The Land of Aloha

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#9 Posted on | Instant Rating: 3.90
X-E's co-Worst Poster of all time! JKyle.com says:

    Originally posted by DrHogie
    To use an analogy: If you leave your front door wide open while watching TV, and someone else comes in and starts watching TV as well in your own apartment without your permission -- are they breaking the law?
Well if they're just standing at the door WITHOUT going in it's creepy but not stealing.

Another ANALOGY!

Piggybacking is a bit like taking three handfuls from a free mint jar at a restaurant you didn't eat at. It's only wrong if your personal code says it is.



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Since: 23.7.04
From: Baltimore, MD

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#10 Posted on | Instant Rating: 5.35

    Piggybacking is a bit like taking three handfuls from a free mint jar at a restaurant you didn't eat at. It's only wrong if your personal code says it is.


Nah, because the implicit suggestion there is "Here, take these, they're free!" Whether or not you ate there doesn't matter, I don't think.

FWIW, I probably wouldn't do this, but it seems like a "no harm, no foul" type of thing in your case. Of course, I have no idea if it's legal or not.



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Since: 21.2.02
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#11 Posted on | Instant Rating: 3.90
X-E's co-Worst Poster of all time! JKyle.com says:

The suggestion is that they're complimentary for customers.



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Since: 24.3.02
From: Oshkosh, WI

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#12 Posted on | Instant Rating: 5.12
    Originally posted by BigSteve
    Of course, I have no idea if it's legal or not.

If they haven't given permission, it's definitely illegal. Here's an article detailing one case of it (although that's the least of the things the guy was in trouble for).
http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/1069439746264_64848946/



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Since: 10.12.01
From: Aurora, IL

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#13 Posted on | Instant Rating: 10.00
There's a similiar story in Florida, where it's also illegal - the person was involved with child porn, and they wanted to charge them with anything they could.

In some sense, it's like illegally downloading mp3s - the law isn't going to come after you if you grabbed one mp3 a day off Napster, but if your actions become a nusiance, you stand a chance of getting in some trouble. Which is why it's good to ask ahead of time.



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Since: 16.4.02
From: Green Bay, WI

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#14 Posted on | Instant Rating: 4.25
God bless the men of 2nd Bn, 127th Inf, 32d "Red Arrow" Brigade, WI Army Nat'l Guard...good luck, and come home soon.

    Originally posted by AWArulz
    And Those damn Canucks CAN come in without paying a toll in some places. They just drive round TRYING to cause Potholes by running over week-old Tim Horton Doughnut holes, then heading back north.

    The bastards.




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It'd have been gold, I tells ya. GOLD. :-)




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Since: 2.1.02
From: Hawthorne, CA

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#15 Posted on | Instant Rating: 6.13

    Originally posted by Oliver
    Question: if someone has wireless Internet available and doesn't enable encryption on it, would those who access it be considered stealing?
So how'd it turn out? Did you go get their permission, or have you just been mooching off their connection anyway ? :)



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