The ethics expert for the New York Times has come out with a startling declaration: It's perfectly fine to hop onto any Wi-Fi network and use the bandwidth, even without asking the owner's permission.
That's the conclusion of Jeffrey Seglin, who writes the paper's syndicated column about ethics. In a recent column Seglin says that if people find an open, unencrypted Wi-Fi network --- be it corporate or in someone's home --- they should feel free to hop on and use the bandwidth.
He writes, "Unless it is made clear to users tapping into wireless connections that they must agree to certain conditions before proceeding, they have not breached any ethical mandate by logging on in any way that they legally can."
Seglin believes that if people haven't set up encryption or required log-ins, their networks are fair game to bandwidth vampires.
He's wrong, on several counts. First of all, setting up encryption is not particularly easy, as anyone who has struggled through WPA can tell you. So you can't hold it against people that they haven't set up encryption on their networks.
Secondly, using someone's Wi-Fi connection can hog their bandwidth. When someone pays for broadband service, they expect to get all the bandwidth they pay for. It's not right for a freeloader to use that bandwidth without permission.