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  • #2179890

    Wi-fi usage ethics (all opinions welcome)


    by gsteve ·

    So, I was reading the “Great Users” thread, that went way off on an ethics tangent, and I want to talk about this from a different perspective.
    I pretty much know nothing about wifi service (I?m still paying 15/month for my doggone slow dialup), but doesn’t anyone else think that the ISPs who are selling this bandwidth would be kind of mad that one (person/family/house) is paying for the service, and someone else is getting access to the service? I’d think the company would want each of you to pay.

    I can remember in the early days of AOL (when I was still naive enough to use that ISP) thinking: “I bet there are plenty of people out there who don’t use all of their allotted screen names…why can’t I just have one of theirs?” (Similar to my theory of: There are so many millionaires out there…can’t I just get one of them to slip me $100-$200K?) 🙂 Let?s just call up Steve Case and ask his opinion. Or, if you hate the big names, consider it was your local Joe Schmoe ISP, would that make it any different?

    I know there are holes all through this line of thinking (i.e. only one user could be connected to AOL at any given time, and millionaires are all greedy and never want to share), but I am getting some ‘red-flags’ from my conscience when I consider using a service that someone else is paying for.

    Can anyone else think of other analogies (good or bad) that would relate to this? (stealing/borrowing services)

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    • #3197068

      Water sprinklers

      by charliespencer ·

      In reply to Wi-fi usage ethics (all opinions welcome)

      I don’t have wireless or high-speed access at the house and I’m content with my dial-up. I haven’t tried poaching off a neighbor’s link, so my opinion is based on theory, not personal experience.

      Say my neighbor installs a sprinkler system in his front yard. Say he doesn’t check the range of the sprinkler heads so he winds up watering my front yard along with his. He’s paying for it and I’m getting it for free, but I haven’t taken any active steps to get his water. If I point this out to him and he doesn’t fix it, I’m ethically in the clear.

      Now I move potted plants into the wet zone. I’ve taken active steps to steal his water. Now I’m on morally shaky ground.

      • #3197054


        by jdclyde ·

        In reply to Water sprinklers

        but not if that wet zone is still on your property your not “stealing” his water. You would have to have been the one to MAKE it overshoot his property or cross onto his property to be stealing it.

        Dial-up… ( shudder )

      • #3127376


        by amcol ·

        In reply to Water sprinklers

        You’re ethically in the clear in both situations.

        You notified your neighbor his sprinkler was watering your lawn, and he makes no adjustments. You are the beneficiary of his laziness.

        You move your potted plants to the watering zone. Your neighbor is incurring no incremental loss. His sprinkler is operating the same way, for the same length of time, emitting the same volume of water. You’ve simply worked things out to be an even larger beneficiary of his laziness.

        In both cases you performed your ethical duty notifying your neighbor of the problem, in both cases your neighbor made the same decision to take no remedial action, and in both cases your neighbor is expelling the same amount of extra water. The fact that you’re getting more benefit in the second case, and took an imperative action to do so, is irrelevant.

        As a matter of fact, in a kind of a perverse way you’re being ethically responsible. Your neighbor didn’t care that he was wasting water so you took it upon yourself to address his misuse of natural resources.

      • #3125630

        Not the same!

        by gphoto45 ·

        In reply to Water sprinklers

        You are actively catching his water, and watering you plants with it. It is this criminal attitude that forces us to live, locked in out homes at night, or locking the doors and windows when we are at work. Stealing is stealing. Taking what is not yours is stealing. Even if you accidently, or unknowingly leave you keys in your car, is it ok for me to use it to take a spin?

        • #3126132

          Please reread my post

          by charliespencer ·

          In reply to Not the same!

          “Now I move potted plants into the wet zone. I’ve taken active steps to steal his water. Now I’m on morally shaky ground.”

          We agree.

      • #3125605

        Not a good analogy

        by crewr ·

        In reply to Water sprinklers

        I agree with your points as they relate to the water sprinkler but they have no correlation to a wireless connection. Let’s say sending out a wireless signal that penetrates your yard is the same as water. Maybe there would be some similarity. But a wireless connection is two way. You ask his wireless router to go get you something from the internet and THEN it broadcasts it to you. It would be more like having a remote control to turn on his water sprinkler whenever your grass got a little dry.

        These arguments persist because people continue in their failure to see that digital assets are as real as material assets. This is the same “there is no material loss” sort of position (that I admit to holding as a teen) that causes people to think, “When I copy a CD, who knows about it? It doesn’t cost anyone anything because I wouldn’t have bought it anyhow.” That’s wrong thinking. The “mooch” factor trickles down into real money. You start thinking, “I would’t have bought the (CD, DSL, software) it anyway” because you know you can get it for free with that attitude. You know that you can stay on dial-up because you “wouldn’t have bought DSL anyway”. Why should you when you can get it for free from your neighbor?

        • #3126131

          Good, but not perfect.

          by charliespencer ·

          In reply to Not a good analogy

          Cut me some slack. It’a an analogy, not a doctoral dissertation on business ethics.

          I agree with you completely on intellectual property issues.

        • #3126051

          Your slack

          by crewr ·

          In reply to Good, but not perfect.

          Sorry. That 2nd half was a general characterization of those that would agree with “borrowing” data. It wasn’t pointed at you personally.

          Here’s a thought. What if the neighbor ALLOWS you to use his wireless connection? Does he have that right? Same issue, it prevents someone from buying into the service and costs the service provider money. It would be like splitting your cable and running a line to his house. Is wireless somehow different because it lacks the wire? Just a thought for discussion.

        • #3125999

          Great question.

          by charliespencer ·

          In reply to Your slack

          How is him allowing me to use it different from his using a second computer in his own home? Sounds good to me.

          What about if he regularly brings his laptop to my house (gaming, maybe) and connects via his access point? Still sounds good to me.

      • #3126001

        Reply To: Wi-fi usage ethics (all opinions welcome)

        by nickinsd2004 ·

        In reply to Water sprinklers

        << Now I move potted plants into the wet zone. I've taken active steps to steal his water. Now I'm on morally shaky ground. >> I don’t agree. Your neighbor has already given you access to his water. The same amount will land in the wet zone of your yard no matter what is there.

        The moral equivalent to wardriving would be placing your potted plants in his yard in a wet zone that doesn’t need watering. Again, the same amount will land in the wet zone no matter what is there.

      • #3125342

        depends on whose property

        by tonythetiger ·

        In reply to Water sprinklers

        If your neighbor has an apple tree that extends over your property, you are certainly entitled to any apples that fall on your side of the fence. After all, you have to clean up the leaves that fall in your yard, don’t you?

    • #3197059

      Changing laws and situations

      by jdclyde ·

      In reply to Wi-fi usage ethics (all opinions welcome)

      As the one to have started that mess in the other discussion, I felt compelled to stop in this one even if I see you didn’t offer your opinion in the “best and great” discussion.

      I would propose their are lesser degrees of this access and different intents.

      Some people do it to save a buck, others do it because they are on the road (like I was). If your out of state for a few days, you couldn’t PAY for access for just the few days you are in town, now can you?

      Some people are looking to take advantage of this and do their downloads or hack into someones system.

      My usage was email and TR discussions for two days and I didn’t lose a moments sleep over it. I did NOT set my Aunt up with a wireless card so she could get this access full time though.

      I pay for internet access at home, but I wasn’t at home. People have tried the argument of “taking something that belongs to someone else”, but it is the open access point that is sending into other peoples houses, not the other way around.

      If bandwidth is low, and useage is infrequent, then their is NOTHING that the owner is out. It did not wear out his access point. It did not raise his bill. He was not harmed or slighted in ANY WAY. This makes all the STUPID comparisons of going in and borrowing something from someones house completely invalid. You didn’t take anything that CAN be given back, and nothing was depleted.

      Until their is a clear legal way to govern this, it will not be looked at unfavorably by many. (me included).

      My disclaimer as in the discussion I started about the legality of this, hackers/crackers/downloaders/full time access are all outside the scope of my statements here and are not indorsed by me.

      • #3197049

        lost in the sea of opinions

        by gsteve ·

        In reply to Changing laws and situations

        Hey, thanks for dropping in on this discussion – I started it because I figured anything I posted into that discussion would get lost in the hundreds of other posts. Why not start my own, right? 😉

        I was really trying to look at this from another perspective, though…when someone has one of these connections, do they pay a company for their bandwidth? If so, what do these companies say about multiple users ‘leaching’ off their paying customer? I’m sure the company would rather have two people paying for their service, than one person paying, and one person getting a freebie.

        P.S. A quick “Belief Statement”:
        In my head, I’m all for big-business, wal-mart, microsoft (hey, they had to do something to get big, right?)…but in my HEART I say “die capitalist scum!!” What a dualistic, ‘tossed by the waves’ mess I am. I guess that’s just the biproduct of american public schools. 🙂

        • #3197035

          well, as the

          by jdclyde ·

          In reply to lost in the sea of opinions

          progressive liberals keep telling us, there are no black and white answers, but subtle shades of gray!

          Funny how that doesn’t fit in anything but their political lives as a way of not having to commit to something?

          While I feel there ARE many black and white issues, this is still not in focus enough for the picture to have developed.

          Oh, and their is a big difference between the effects MS and Walmart have. Lots of people are making a good living thanks to the MS monopoly.

          Very few people are making a good living thanks to Walmart. ( borgmart )

        • #3125938


          by dr dij ·

          In reply to well, as the

          having access to more goods at prices better than kmart isn’t helping you with a good living?

          there’s lots of stuff I could not afford if wasn’t for them. including a $1500 memory foam mattress they sell for $200. And good quality clothes that are 30% cheaper than target or kmart.

      • #3125606


        by gphoto45 ·

        In reply to Changing laws and situations

        Mind if I grab your wallet, and borrow a few bucks. You weren’t using them, Take you car for a spin, and grab a few groceries? You were watching football. I will drop a few bucks of gas in it. The fact people are not educated enough to lock their doors is not justification to rob them. The fact someone has two cars, one they are not using, doesn’t mean you can use one. You are just a common thief, justifying your actions but saying, “Well, he wasn’t using it!”
        This is the attitude that forces people to live like they are in prison. Locked in at night. By your justification, no reason I can’t “borrow” your laptop when you leave it unattended at the airport! You aren’t using it! If stealing doesn’t bother you, hate to see you in a WalMart. It DON’T matter he wasn’t using it, you didn’t wear out anything, you took what was not yours. BTW, it IS illegal to break into someone house, car, AP in a lot of states. You justifications for stealing are not even close to “right”! Plus, how do you know he wasn’t using, or needing the bandwidth. What if his wireless was connected to a Medical Alert system, and just cost him precious time he needed to let the medical people know his new baby was having an emergency. Sorry your were inconvenienced about not having high speed while you were out of town, but that is no justification for theft. As a last point, there is a law against taking what is not yours, even if a person has excess, it is called, Theft by conversion. Taking and using what is not legally yours. Using a service or product that you did not present conpensation for.

        • #3125873

          i agree with you

          by dohnotgood ·

          In reply to Theif

          it is sad to see how many people are willing to take from others.

          its sad

          but it seems as if a lot of people dont mind.

          that is until it happens to them

        • #3125872

          i agree with you

          by dohnotgood ·

          In reply to Theif

          It is sad to see how many people are willing to take from others.

          It’s sad.

          But it seems as if a lot of people dont mind.

          That is until it happens to them

        • #3125856

          I’m sure

          by jdclyde ·

          In reply to Theif

          there was a point in there somewhere? No?

          Please oh great one, state the specific law that was broken in the great state of Illinois, when an open access point was used for internet access.

          Can’t state this specific law? Hmm, maybe it isn’t against the law after all? Maybe instead of me being a “common thief”, you are just a “common idiot”?

          You surely didn’t put much thought into your post as none of your examples come even close to the use of an open access point.

          The owner was out nothing.
          Nothing was taken that he didn’t send out openly to everyone around him.
          It cost him nothing.
          It wore out nothing.

          First, run out and buy yourself a clue.
          Second, either come up with an example that fits the situation or continue to play the village idiot.
          Third, show the law that was broken. If there isn’t a law covering this, then it isn’t illegal. But I don’t expect you to understand something like that. Much to complex of an issue to realize unless there is a specific law forbiding something, it is legal.

        • #3125273

          Unecessary roughness

          by crewr ·

          In reply to I’m sure

          Your post was flagged for unnecessary roughness. 5 yard penalty.

          Really, must you insult someone in order to even have a point? The original post in this thread was about ethics. Just because the laws haven’t caught up with technology yet doesn’t mean theft of service via wireless router is ethical. Laws are made by the government and we are required to follow them. An ethical constraint is made by one’s conscious and followed because it is the right thing to do.

        • #3125227

          Interesting in another way.

          by tonythetiger ·

          In reply to Theif

          “The fact people are not educated enough to lock their doors is not justification to rob them.”

          But it’s ok to talk them into buying a more expensive car than they need, or a faster computer.

          Ethics is nothing more than an arbitrary, flexible boundary dividing what you can “get by with” from what you can’t. It was created by the powerful to allow them to do what they knew was wrong without being held criminally responsible for it.

    • #3125753

      It Comes down to the all mighty $$$

      by iamlostnspace ·

      In reply to Wi-fi usage ethics (all opinions welcome)

      Just for comparison. How about setting up a satelite receiver, receive signals watch TV and not pay for the service? Because it’s illegal and you will be fined. (if you are caught) Why does DirectTV insist that you purchase your system from a distributer and agree to “activate” your account within X number of days… Because they want you to agree to their monthly charges. To me their signals are bouncing off my property and my house, but according to federal law I am not allowed to descramble their signal. The one thing I always liked about Walmart was years ago they told DircTV to stick it. All other places would require a credit card when purchasing equipment but WalMart told em if the customer has cash they can buy it. People that knew how to use a ISO7816 programmer could walk into Walmart buy a $49 system and watch free TV, HBO, ESPN, PPV’s etc. If not you could always get a card on the internet or E-Bay. You just had to know what the code was in the datastream and away they went. This was the whole key for DTV, they made their signals more difficult to compromise. As a result about 90% of the web sites that used to have anything to do with this have vanished.

      • #3126152

        Do you see any difference?

        by jdclyde ·

        In reply to It Comes down to the all mighty $$$

        between activly working to defeat security that someone has put in place (hacking in) vs hoping on a signal that is wide open? No hacking or breaking in going on here.

        And until their is a clear law saying otherwise, it would not be illegal.

        Now, if they DO have even the most basic of security attempted, then it is clear that it is not inteneded for open use and this would be easily seen as illegal.

        As far as the ethics go, I wonder just how many of the high and mighty that have taken the moral high ground on this issue have ANY software that is not lisenced to THEM on any of their systems? Bring a sight lisenced copy from work home to their systems maybe? Shareware that is past the trial date? A copy of a music CD that they got from their friend?

        I at least can say I don’t have pirated software on my systems, even though I have full access to it.

    • #3125649

      Here’s one

      by el guapo ·

      In reply to Wi-fi usage ethics (all opinions welcome)

      “…but I am getting some ‘red-flags’ from my conscience when I consider using a service that someone else is paying for.”

      “Can anyone else think of other analogies (good or bad) that would relate to this? (stealing/borrowing services)”

      What about welfare? What about all these people who are too lazy to work and live off the government? What about these women that keeps having babies just because the more offspring they have the more welfare they can collect?

      So lighten up. Join the mooching bandwagon. Be thankful you have a job to support these people.

      • #3125949

        be humble enough to receive

        by bfepistle ·

        In reply to Here’s one

        This is a good point. Some of us are in need, and some of us have enough that we can share.

        The employed people “share” (under duress) and the welfare mom is not too proud to take a handout.

        The neighbor has a nice broadband connection, and shares his bounty with his neighbors. A middle-class neighbor _should_ be too proud to accept full-time service (and I agree with others that that is immoral), but the visitor to his house may use her laptop to connect via the neighbor’s wifi connection, when her host (person, not computer!) doesn’t have a router, or has a USB connection (boo, hiss!!) to his DSL modem.

        I’m not congratulating those who abuse the welfare system, but it is important to be able to receive just as well as we’re able to give. Sometimes you have and can give; sometimes you need and can receive.

    • #3125524

      Reply To: Wi-fi usage ethics (all opinions welcome)

      by abner.king ·

      In reply to Wi-fi usage ethics (all opinions welcome)

      I would think that if an ISP was serious about this sort of thing that they might require their subscribers to secure thier wifi via encryption or whatever as terms of their subscription agreement…

      • #3125855

        The problem with that idea is

        by jdclyde ·

        In reply to Reply To: Wi-fi usage ethics (all opinions welcome)

        if you require something, you would have to support it.

        MOST ISP’s I have ever worked with or heard of will not even talk to you if you have a router in between their “modem” and your computer, let alone a WAP.

        Imagine walking Grandma Jones through a WEP config everytime she turns her laptop back on?

      • #3125323

        Some do.

        by tonythetiger ·

        In reply to Reply To: Wi-fi usage ethics (all opinions welcome)

        Some require you use their routing equipment equipment (even their network cards!). Others forbid routers period. Still others let you do whatever you want, but disable your connection you off once you have transferred xxx gigabytes. My last ISP would cut your bandwidth to 64k for the rest of the day once you reached 5 gig in that day. Try sharing that with two other computers 🙂

    • #3126102

      Ethics and using Wifi others pay for

      by mikebytes ·

      In reply to Wi-fi usage ethics (all opinions welcome)

      This is an interesting discussion, and it is very interesting to see this entire discussion in terms of ethics. On one end you have people saying if its out their unprotected then use it, while on the other end you have people saying it is theft!

      These views are reflective of a person’s character and related to trust, respect for others, and integrety.

      I would like then, to ask a question of those who would say it is theft. Let me set up a condition. I assume it is theft because someone else is paying for the service and you do not have permission to use it. OK, no question there but then the real question is do you have the same view of using the internet at work for your own purposes?

      You see most all of us are prostitutes, we just have to determine our price level. 🙂

      • #3126047

        Excellent point

        by crewr ·

        In reply to Ethics and using Wifi others pay for

        I had the same thought this morning. I could likely rationalize it based on the hours I work, etc. Good thought worthy of discussion. I’d like to see how people rationalize their surfing and personal email time on the clock.

        BTW: I’ve got 8 mins left on my lunch hour. 😉

      • #3125998

        Depend on where you work

        by charliespencer ·

        In reply to Ethics and using Wifi others pay for

        Some companies have very liberal policies regarding use of the company’s link for personal business. Other companies have no policy at all.

    • #3125929

      A horse by any other name…

      by mattk ·

      In reply to Wi-fi usage ethics (all opinions welcome)

      The bottom line is this: If you pay for something you get use of it. If you do not pay you can receive benifit if it is given to you by the person who paid for it. Outside of that it is not yours and you should leave it alone.

      All of the analogies here are good ones, but all of them point to a pervasive theme. Getting something for nothing and rationalizing/justifying the deed. Boil it down to its simplest terms, and you are using something without paying and will not return it. It does not matter if it is a neighbor, employer, lover, or any other “-er”. And taking something that is not yours or using something that is not yours is stealing in all 50 states.

      The last time I was faced with this I was using dial up and my neighbor had a rocking high speed connection. I knocked on his door and told him my laptop was hitting his AP. I asked if I could pay him $5 a month and use the connection, and he agreed. Problem solved.

      To do the right thing, even though nobody is looking, is a mark of maturity and character (Ann Landers said it, it must be true). Nobody ever got their hind parts in a sling taking the moral high ground. What does it say about a person if they can convince themselves that it is ok to do the wrong thing under given circumstances? I fear for our society…

    • #3125487

      my opinion

      by jeasterlingtech9 ·

      In reply to Wi-fi usage ethics (all opinions welcome)

      i feel that we’ve suffered enough
      1. if you don’t want to share your wifi AP don’t it is simple to lock it down (though bad guys can still break in with time and work)
      2. if you have a knowledge deficit you can find a simple set of instructions to tell you how to lock it down
      3. if you don’t care to do this simple thing then it is on YOUR head
      4. if you don’t know how to drive a car and you crash into someone it is still YOUR fault

      take some personal responsibility and be graceful to others a few megs of downloads isn’t going to kill anyone even if you used ALL of the bandwidth what is that worth… less then 2 dollars a day barely the level of petty theft for crips sake you are going to spend thousands to try and if convicted it will cost dozens of times the value of the product per day of incarceration give me a freekin break

    • #3135392

      Really Simple

      by donald-not-the-duck ·

      In reply to Wi-fi usage ethics (all opinions welcome)

      Let’s see now if we can’t move from the high tech to low tech to make this a bit easier to grasp on the ethical level.

      I am thirsty (let’s say I want a beer but don’t have one left in the fridge or am lazy to drive to the store) I don’t go down and try the front door of every house to see that first of all it is empty and secondly and it has beer and then take some because oh chucks they have to much anyways. That is theft.

      Or to put it differently (in the context of the definition of war driving and ethical clap trap hacking)- I do not go around the neighbourhood trying every door to see if it is open then step in and tell people that is was well unlocked and I am doing the occupant a favour. In the US and its abysmal gun control legislation that would get me killed.

      Just because it has a computer attached to it does not mean that the basic ethical equation changes. And yes illegal software and music falls into the same category and that is why I am opposed to P2P software.

      • #3120782

        Following the Ethics Trail

        by cbalness ·

        In reply to Really Simple

        Adding a comment to the surfing at work discussion… that also works into the old “Why can’t I play online games and suck down bandwidth on your PC but on my lunch hour ??” argument.

        I’m sure many people will see the duality here. I am on “my” time but I’m using “their” equipment. Really and rightly I shouldn’t be whipping their bandwidth for no good reason no matter whose time I’m on.

        Many people will say however that an employer who won’t look the other way now and then and let the employees flex their hormones isn’t an employer to cozy up with.

        We’ve all done it, made a call on a business phone to wish Mom a Happy Birthday, borrowed a stamp to mail a personal letter, left 6 minutes early to catch the bus, slipped a pen into our pocket to use at home… what’s the harm right ??

        It really does come down to black and white, integrity and morals. If you aren’t supposed to be doing it, maybe you should examine your motivation for doing so.

        In the case of the purloined bandwidth, the individual pointed out he really couldn’t sign up for 4 days service and he assisted in a positive way with configuring the connection.

        Bravo. Again we are talking about simply checking email or surfing not downloading War and Peace or getting Credit Card Data. What you must decide is who/what was harmed and would you like it to happen to you ??

        My .02

    • #3080386

      How do we know?

      by sql_joe ·

      In reply to Wi-fi usage ethics (all opinions welcome)

      If the connection does not require a logon and/or does not specifically state that its private, how is one supposed to tell it apart from the many legitimate public networks?

      If someone does not want another riding on his wireless, then he at least needs notify folks that its a private network.

      I’m not saying riding on someone else wi-fi is right or wrong (though I think cases such as neighbors sharing broadband is unethical), I’m just saying there’s no way to tell teh public networks from the private unless its labelled. If a network is wide open to public usage, then how do we know its not for public use? If I don’t have to take any special measures except to boot up my laptop, and VIOLA! there’s the network and I’m in…well it sounds like it might be public.


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