Thursday, 23 August 2007

Is stealing wireless wrong?

Well let me think. Stealing is wrong! So stealing wireless is... erm... er... right? No. Wrong? At least this seems to be the opinion voiced in this BBC article - that is -no one appears very sure. Curious how when something appears to have little or no value on the surface, whether you are allowed to steal it suddenly becomes open for debate.

Basically, some bloke has been arrested for using his laptop in the street to connect to some other random person's unsecured wireless internet connection.

But, before your knee jerks, and you utter something completely foolish such as "Wot they arrest 'im for? Serves the other bloke right, they shud've secured their tinternet", you might want to:

  • Read the article
  • Scratch your head at the completely innacurate analogy of the article author
  • Guffaw at the more ridiculous analogies posted by the general public in response
  • Be mildly suprised at the bare faced cheek of the one who openly confessed to using his neighbours connection all the time:
Freeloading and proud of it. I just hope the person downstairs doesn't read
this. Bob, Bobsland

Before we go any further however, all good interactive media developers will already know how to be safe from Bob of Bobsland, by ensuring their wireless router is configured with WPA encryption enabled and MAC Address filtering. That way you keep your bandwidth all to yourself - and not share it with Bob and the Boblandians. And why not? After all you are paying for it.

However, some of our fellow internet users think that wanting to keep your wireless network to yourself is "odd". Consider this comment from "Richard, Nottingham":

Does it matter if Richard Branson, BT or any other major corporate company doesn't get a few more pounds? If someone wants to share then fine, if you're a bit odd and aren't interested, then put a password on it. Don't give me the 'I'm paying, so why should someone else get something out of it' argument either.
Richard, Nottingham

Of course Richard of Nottingham made no comment about whether it was"odd" to want to keep his cash to himself while he freeloads your broadband connection.

Some no doubt really think that wireless signals will go to waste if not used (indeed the author of the BBC article seems to think so - hence their crass analogy to open their article). But this is not the case. In some situations piggy-backing someone else's connection will do little more than slow their data transfer rate. In other cases you may be robbing them blind - this occurs if the user has a broadband contract that has a cap or limit on the ammount of data they can transfer in a month. If the freeloader downloads 10Mb, he has robbed their paying host 10Mb worth of data transfer.

Judging by some of the comments, this would not only not be stealing, but the wireless owner would be asking for it. As if someone savvy enough to find the unsecured wireless somehow lacks the power of choice in the matter. The same people equate it to leaving your car doors open and say you should have no cause to complain when it gets nicked. Clearly, leaving a car door open is a crime worthy of having your car permanently confiscated by a thief, while being a car thief is a profession worthy of a free car. These people are blatantly missing the point while they come up with worse and worse analogies for at best freeloading and at worst stealing from their neighbours.

The problem with blaming the victim for their carelessness, and placing the blame on them, is potentially much worse than ignoring the obvious fact that the thief had a choice. There are rights issues at stake here. In fact there is real danger in setting a precedent that it becomes the owners job to make access impossible or "right of access" is assumed to be granted. Legal precedent tends to spill over into other situations. This is not a direction we want to go.

When analogy ping-pong fails, and the crooks still think they have a right to piggy-back, I have this to say:

To all the cheapskate freeloading parasites out there - especially those who regularly leech off their unwitting neighbours. If you don't want to pay BT for your own connection, you should knock on the persons door whose connection you are using, and offer to go halves. Now that's sharing and paying your own way. You also might then feel differently if leech number 3 came along and wasn't sharing the bill. If you're freeloading, taking not giving, you're being a parasite! Get your own connection or at least offer to pay some to your host and be a drain on others no longer.

I wonder if the BBC will publish my comment.

No comments:

Post a Comment