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Leaking Wireless Internet Connections

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You have somebody elses money and you lose it gambling at a casino. Could you claim that the loss was a mistake because you believed you were going to win and that nobody can really pin blame on you for having a mistaken belief? I see your internet connection argument to be identical to this scenario.
I don't see it that way. I am not arguing that a person has a right to knowingly steal if you think they won't be harmed. The mistake is solely, only, wholely, totally, entirely and exclusively over whether you are correct that you have permission. Tommy has named a number of contextual factors that are relevant. I would say that in the Up Your Arlington neighborhood of my burg, no wireless connection in the residential parts can legitimately be considered to be offered for free, and in mine, they could be (it's something about the personalities of people in the neighborhoods). Many people (on both the send and receive end) are clueless about SSIDs -- I would say that a receiver with a clue should never use a connection with a default name, but of course you have to know what those names are. I would encourage free wireless offerers to include the word "free" or "open" in the SSID.

Let's remember what morality is about: it is a set of principles that tell you how to live your life. Morality is about you, not others. Assuming that you have a rights-respecting personal moral code, do you know, in the context of what you know about the world, that you are doing wrong by using a free connection? Have you chosen to evade knowledge, deliberately hiding from admitting to yourself that a box named "linksys" probably is not being offered as a free neighborhood connection? Do you know that the signal is emanating from your neighbor to the south who is a techno-dummy who couldn't possibly figure out how to use encryption? A person can easily determine if they are acting morally or immorally. The hard part is for you to judge the actions of others, since their actions are based on their own knowledge, not your knowledge, so you have to know what facts they are aware of in order to decide if they've performed an improper integration of their knowledge.

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I don't see it that way. I am not arguing that a person has a right to knowingly steal if you think they won't be harmed. The mistake is solely, only, wholely, totally, entirely and exclusively over whether you are correct that you have permission. Tommy has named a number of contextual factors that are relevant. I would say that in the Up Your Arlington neighborhood of my burg, no wireless connection in the residential parts can legitimately be considered to be offered for free, and in mine, they could be (it's something about the personalities of people in the neighborhoods). Many people (on both the send and receive end) are clueless about SSIDs -- I would say that a receiver with a clue should never use a connection with a default name, but of course you have to know what those names are. I would encourage free wireless offerers to include the word "free" or "open" in the SSID.

Let's remember what morality is about: it is a set of principles that tell you how to live your life. Morality is about you, not others. Assuming that you have a rights-respecting personal moral code, do you know, in the context of what you know about the world, that you are doing wrong by using a free connection? Have you chosen to evade knowledge, deliberately hiding from admitting to yourself that a box named "linksys" probably is not being offered as a free neighborhood connection? Do you know that the signal is emanating from your neighbor to the south who is a techno-dummy who couldn't possibly figure out how to use encryption? A person can easily determine if they are acting morally or immorally. The hard part is for you to judge the actions of others, since their actions are based on their own knowledge, not your knowledge, so you have to know what facts they are aware of in order to decide if they've performed an improper integration of their knowledge.

So then you do see my point. Setting the SSID is a way to 'post' that you can use a connection for free, and in context, yes there can be an honest mistake, however your points were that you have the right to assume any wireless point was open for free use. You also made no distinction with conext of private or business, and said you have the right to use any wireless points that was left open several times.

Leonard Peikoff has an article posted somewhere called Fact and Value that goes into the core of this discussion, about juding actions of the honest mistake and the fact that they are not justified morally. Someone raised as a communist in China and following that philosophy because that is all they know is not honestly mistaken. They are giving into an irrational idea without reasoning it out. Assuming that everyone is going to be giving something away for free because others do is throwing out the idea that the rational thought that there are some people that don't want you to use their property.

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Setting the SSID is a way to 'post' that you can use a connection for free, and in context, yes there can be an honest mistake, however your points were that you have the right to assume any wireless point was open for free use.
When and where did I say that? Edited by DavidOdden
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Until the government steps in and regulates wireless, and establishes a specific law that you must get written authorisation from the provider before using free wireless, then morality say you should assume the servise is provided for free. It is sad when people are ignorant, but the existence of an ignorant person out there somewhere does not constitute a valid claim on my life and does not constitute an abridgement of my right to provide whatever free services I may feel like providing and have the right to provide, and does not form a valid basis for restricting my right to enjoy these same benefits provided by others. This is what a trade is: I provide something, and get something in return. I look forward to the day when wireless connections can smoothly switch on the road from router to router, so that we can enjoy truly mobile computing.
So arguing "but it's property, keep your hands off!!!" ignores the fact that I have the right to use my property as I wish, and I also have the right to make use of other people's offers of property-use.

are two examples.

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are two examples.
I really hate that stupid browser back key on my laptop, which I keep forgetting to disable. So my reply got wiped out. Anyhow... The second quote says something different, if you will re-read it -- it's about accepting offers, not determining that an offer exists. The first, I admit, does read like a contextless absolute, which I wish to amend to "unless you have concrete reason to think otherwise, you should assume the servise is provided for free". The question about rights is a different matter: there is no law against me using my neighbor's wireless, though I think there should be (a reasonable legal standard should be established whereby all wireless routers are sold with encryption on by default, requiring explicit override by the user). You have to be careful about the distinction "have the right to assume" and "have the right to act". I have the right to assume anything I want to, though some assumptions may not be well-supported. I also have the right to accept any free service offered (I repeat). The residential / business distinction is non-essential -- there is probably a statistical correlation, but it's not reliable. If we're talking about me, then I would hold myself to a higher evidentiary standard because I have a reasonable idea of the relevant facts at least in places where I regularly hang out. Not everybody is so informed.
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Well then you have to forgive me, because this entire thread I have been arguing mainly against what I had taken to be you saying you had that right. I threw the second one in the context that if you're stating that society can create an implicit agreement that something has been offered as public use, then you were stating you had the right to take it, etc etc, following the logic of the thought.

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Its called warpathing. Look it up. Most companies consciouslly allow it. If they don't they simply have a closed netowrk that requires a login. If your friend is using one of the many open networks out there, those networks are designed for just that and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.

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Its called warpathing. Look it up. Most companies consciouslly allow it. If they don't they simply have a closed netowrk that requires a login. If your friend is using one of the many open networks out there, those networks are designed for just that and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.

Warpathing returned no results for anything like what you are talking about. There isn't even a wiki entry for it. I ran networks for 4 years and had enough contacts in the industry to know that 'most' companies don't 'consciouslly' allow unkown people to roam their networks and eat up their bandwidth.

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Warpathing returned no results for anything like what you are talking about. There isn't even a wiki entry for it. I ran networks for 4 years and had enough contacts in the industry to know that 'most' companies don't 'consciouslly' allow unkown people to roam their networks and eat up their bandwidth.

Most corporate networks are closed. I'm talking about the free hot spot networks that allow you to use them freely.

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Most corporate networks are closed. I'm talking about the free hot spot networks that allow you to use them freely.

If they state they are free for use, then fine, there is no issue. My discussion with David on this thread was that since some say they are open, that does not give someone the right to assume all are open.

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I have never heard of warpathing, though i have heard of warchalking.

When I heard of it, a few years ago, it was people driving around town, putting chalk marks on buildings to show where hotspots where. This was not to the knowledge of the companies. At least not the time when I read the article (this was about 3 or 4 years ago).

This doesn't really change the arguement either way...just thought perhaps warchalking was maybe the word you were thinking of.

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  • 1 year later...

Coming to this thread a full two years later, I think there is more of a precedent set. I think this precedent is clearly against the claim that "it is always stealing to use bandwidth on another network without an explicit agreement." About a year and a half ago I bought a wireless router to set up my home network. This was an extremely common, middle of the market router for home use. It explicitly prompted me to set up password protection during the installation, and it said this was "strongly recommended" with a warning to those who do not wish to share their network. I had to return that router because of some type of malfunction later, but when I set up the second one from a different company, a similar warning was given. I think that nearly all wireless network installation software brings this issue to the attention of the user. Therefore, if someone chooses not to enable some type of security, I assume either:

The person has frequent visitors with laptops and PDA's at their house, and did not want to enable password protection for this reason but does not want anyone they don't know using their bandwidth.

OR they had the network installed by someone they hired, like a computer geek who believes internet should be free for all.

So, in my day to day life I usually assume that the open networks I encounter are being shared. I think you should definitely assume this if you live in a high density neighborhood, and that goes double if there are a lot of businesses in the area. At home, I use my own network. There are other ones in my neighborhood but I haven't tried accessing them simply because my own router sends the strongest signal. I live in a low density residential neighborhood. I think you have reason to believe that connecting to a network entitled "Smith Family" in a low density residential neighborhood could be an artifact of a family that purchased a router so long ago they were not prompted to password protect their network. Otherwise, I'm lead to believe people are giving out internet connection as a gift.

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This is interesting news about the manufacturers changing the default, and confirms what I've held forever, that free-market forces are the best way to resolve such issues. Right now there are 3 wireless networks detectable near my home, and all of them are secured.

Two years ago I could drive from my house to the grocery store and always have internet connection via unsecured wireless networks. Now less than about one in four of them are still open. I think this probably has more to do with companies changing the defaults to protect the customers than increased awareness about router configuration.

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  • 2 months later...

Well assuming that the original supplier of the internet has full capability to shut off all connections to his or her internet for the people without a password then no, it is not stealing. Many people share their internet much like people share a bench. Does it benefit anyone to not allow someone to sit down? Does it hurt the person to let someone sit down? No. So why is internet sharing different, it doesn't hurt the person that owns the internet connection, nor does it help them in anyway. It is not stealing and ethically it is correct.

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Well assuming that the original supplier of the internet has full capability to shut off all connections to his or her internet for the people without a password then no, it is not stealing. Many people share their internet much like people share a bench. Does it benefit anyone to not allow someone to sit down? Does it hurt the person to let someone sit down? No. So why is internet sharing different, it doesn't hurt the person that owns the internet connection, nor does it help them in anyway. It is not stealing and ethically it is correct.

The problem is that people do not necessarily have unlimited access to the net. Some people pay a certain sum for a certain amount of download data per month - my brother pays $A100 a month for 50 gigabytes of broadband (Australian broadband is a mess). If the usage goes over that amount then some plans slash the bandwidth ("shaping") while others charge additional fees. A leacher causes the subscriber to have increased risk of this.

The bench analogy would be more accurate if someone paid for the use of the bench, who may or may not use all of it, and someone comes along and uses the presently unused space. This potentially interferes with the future activities of the person who paid for it and may end up causing additional fees to be required. That does hurt, it is theft, and is immoral.

JJM

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