Intruder

March 01, 2004

I took my laptop and went to the park for lunch today. There weren't any wireless connections I could find from inside the park, but as I was leaving one sounded, so I parked on a side street and tried to connect. Being unsuccessful I went to a spot I know has a connect able, un-encrypted wireless access point and surfed the Internet from there.

Doing this raises an interesting ethical question or three. Is my using a wireless equipped laptop to surf their un-encrypted connection stealing? Is it hurting them in any way? Is it wrong? I can see both sides of the issue. I know that I would be upset if someone were to park in front of our house and use our connection. That's why I took the time and trouble to secure it. But the geeky, "I'm superior than you are", voice in my head says that if they didn't want me to use their connection they'd secure it.

If it were a restaurant or coffee shop that provided free wireless internet then I would have no compunction about using their "service." And even though my connecting to the net through some homeowners connection isn't going to cost them any money (it's already paid for) I feel like I am taking something from them. If nothing else I am acutely aware that I am invading (however virtually) their space and their home.

I guess maybe this isn't a group ethics question, but rather it's a question of personal ethics. Can I live with myself knowing that I have electronically invaded someone's home purely for my internet fix? Or do they lose control, and ownership of, the wireless signal once it leaves their house?

I'll probably continue to "borrow" connections from time to time, but I think living with the knowledge that I can slip into and out of their homes largely, if not totally, unnoticed will haunt me every time I go on the air.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.