Vladimir Berkov

Wireless internet

45 posts in this topic

I finally broke down and bought a laptop with a wireless ethernet card and it is great! It is wonderful being able to access the net around school, at the coffee shop, sitting around my apartment...basically everywhere. It seems most places have some sort of wireless connectivity now either intentionally or through their failure to prohibit access on their networks. Either way, I am having a lot of fun with this thing.

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I second that! I posted about it in this same forum a while back. :lol:

http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?showtopic=955

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It seems most places have some sort of wireless connectivity now either intentionally or through their failure to prohibit access on their networks.  Either way, I am having a lot of fun with this thing.

I know someone whose brother lives in the same city you do, Vladimir, and apparently this guy has not had an account with an ISP for some while because he is usually able to pick up stray wireless network signals in his apartment and elsewhere. I am not sure if this would constitute theft or not. My inclination is to think not so long as he merely turns on his computer and the access is automatically there and he is not trying to hack his way into such networks. I am just not sure why anyone would not take the steps to secure their network to stop random people from accessing it and perhaps using it to cause trouble.

One of these days, I am going to have to break down and get a laptop. I just need to find a few more excuses to rationalize myself doing it because I really don't need one. But there are occasions when one would sure be nice to have.

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One of these days, I am going to have to break down and get a laptop.  I just need to find a few more excuses to rationalize myself doing it because I really don't need one.  But there are occasions when one would sure be nice to have.

You obviously want one. That sounds like a damn good reason to me. Go spend money. It's good for the economy. :lol:

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...

One of these days, I am going to have to break down and get a laptop.  I just need to find a few more excuses to rationalize myself doing it because I really don't need one.  But there are occasions when one would sure be nice to have.

Whoever said luxury goods are bad for you? :lol: You may not need a laptop for survival, but it's good to enjoy such things when you deserve them! :D So if you've worked hard and productively and have made enough money to afford a laptop with wireless Internet capability, go ahead and buy one--no need to rationalize. :P

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I am not sure if this would constitute theft or not.  My inclination is to think not so long as he merely turns on his computer and the access is automatically there and he is not trying to hack his way into such networks.  I am just not sure why anyone would not take the steps to secure their network to stop random people from accessing it and perhaps using it to cause trouble.
Because it's not trivial enough to do. Anyone providing commercial wireless can control access, but ordinary home users on average cannot (ordinary home users also can't convert their drives to NTFS or write HTML). The essential issue, as I see it, is whether you can reasonably conclude that someone is voluntarily providing a free service. If not, I don't see how you could conclude that it is not theft. Theft doesn't just involve going to great lengths to steal.

BTW I got a Thinkpad T40 a couple of years ago, and it has utterly changed my life. Do it.

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I read in the paper the other day that the City of San Francisco is planning to have a city-wide hotspot. I'm not sure if they are making it a public service "free" to all, or if they are going to charge a fee to users, who will be issued a login.

Even though I think the local government should not engage in this venture, and leave it up to a private company instead, I do think it's pretty cool. I'll use it. Internet on the beach or in the park sounds awesome.

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Because it's not trivial enough to do. Anyone providing commercial wireless can control access, but ordinary home users on average cannot (ordinary home users also can't convert their drives to NTFS or write HTML). The essential issue, as I see it, is whether you can reasonably conclude that someone is voluntarily providing a free service. If not, I don't see how you could conclude that it is not theft. Theft doesn't just involve going to great lengths to steal.

BTW I got a Thinkpad T40 a couple of years ago, and it has utterly changed my life. Do it.

It isn't hard at all to secure your wireless home network. In fact, when your ISP sets it up they do it for you.

I would say that the ethics of wireless internet is akin to that of radio. If you broadcast a signal out there it is up to you to secure or encrypt it if you don't want people listening. Once a person works to actively defeat the encryption/security features THEN it becomes theft.

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It isn't hard at all to secure your wireless home network.  In fact, when your ISP sets it up they do it for you.
If your ISP does set up a wireless router for you, I imagine that would be so. Mine sure doesn't. Everybody I know of who got wireless just went to the store and bought a router. While from my POV enabling WEP is indeed easy, it isn't self-evident that that's what has to be done, and it doesn't always work (get a better router if that's the case). I think those facts explain why there are a lot of open wireless connections in my neighborhood: not because people are deliberately running hotspots out of their houses, but because they don't know any better.
I would say that the ethics of wireless internet is akin to that of radio.  If you broadcast a signal out there it is up to you to secure or encrypt it if you don't want people listening. Once a person works to actively defeat the encryption/security features THEN it becomes theft.
I don't see that at all. If you're transmitting radio, it has no effect on you whatsoever if someone receives what you're sending. If you're receiving (wireless), that means you are taking bandwidth away from the owner, not to mention trespassing (by sending uninvited material through his router and internet connection). Not to mention, if you are a pervert downloading child porn through someone else's connection, it's the connection owner who is going to go to prison (that, of course, is the fundamental reason why everybody should know how to secure their connection). I don't see how actively circumventing security makes it theft but taking an unsecured resource is not. That's like saying that if you don't put barbed wire around your apple tree to prevent theft, then taking an apple off of someone's tree isn't theft, because they didn't do enough to protect the apple.

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That's like saying that if you don't put barbed wire around your apple tree to prevent theft, then taking an apple off of someone's tree isn't theft, because they didn't do enough to protect the apple.

This is generally correct. Just because somebody leaves their front door open doesn't mean they want their neighbors wandering through their house.

(Donning the hat of the devil's advocate, the counter-argument in this case would be that using the bandwidth isn't a rights violation as long as it doesn't impact the activities of the legitimate owner. Sort of a Lockean "as much and as good" kind of argument. This counter-argument fails, though; extending the analogy above you're still trespassing in your neighbor's house even if he never notices that you're there. Respect for property rights includes respecting the rights of people who wouldn't notice the violation.)

There is an ISP called SpeakEasy, incidentally, which at one time was actively encouraging its customers to share their bandwidth through wireless. They even offered a 'split billing' option, so that you could let your neighbor use your network and they'd get billed for half the cost of the DSL connection.

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If you're transmitting radio, it has no effect on you whatsoever if someone receives what you're sending. If you're receiving (wireless), that means you are taking bandwidth away from the owner, not to mention trespassing (by sending uninvited material through his router and internet connection). Not to mention, if you are a pervert downloading child porn through someone else's connection, it's the connection owner who is going to go to prison (that, of course, is the fundamental reason why everybody should know how to secure their connection). I don't see how actively circumventing security makes it theft but taking an unsecured resource is not. That's like saying that if you don't put barbed wire around your apple tree to prevent theft, then taking an apple off of someone's tree isn't theft, because they didn't do enough to protect the apple.

The important point about the radio analogy is that the signal is being sent without your consent into your home. My point only covers use of wireless internet that doesn't involve actual trespass.

In this sense it is different than the apple analogy. To take an apple you must trespass or at minimum enter the other persons property. I think a more apt analogy would be an apple tree that your neighbor plants on the border of the property line such that the limbs of the tree hang over your yard. If apples fall off the branch on to your yard and you take one, how is that theft? You didn't plant the tree in the location, you merely picked up something which ended up on your property only through the carelessness of your neighbor, and something which is quite reasonably "abandoned" or ownerless.

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I read in the paper the other day that the City of San Francisco is planning to have a city-wide hotspot. I'm not sure if they are making it a public service "free" to all, or if they are going to charge a fee to users, who will be issued a login.

Even though I think the local government should not engage in this venture, and leave it up to a private company instead, I do think it's pretty cool. I'll use it. Internet on the beach or in the park sounds awesome.

It appears that this is actually going to be provided by Google for free:

Google bids to help San Francisco go wireless

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The fact that an individual does not know how to secure their property, or doesn't secure it successfully, or doesn't even realize it needs securing (ie doesn't know it is vulnerable to theft in the first place), does not mean others are therefore free to use that property without the consent of the property owner.

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The fact that an individual does not know how to secure their property, or doesn't secure it successfully, or doesn't even realize it needs securing (ie doesn't know it is vulnerable to theft in the first place), does not mean others are therefore free to use that property without the consent of the property owner.

Of course, but depending on the circumstances property may be considered "abandoned" or ownerless. Also property that is sent to another person without their approval, request, etc is not required to be returned or unused. For instance if a company sends you a product in the mail without you ordering it and then asks for you to pay for it, you don't have to pay (or even return the property I believe.)

I would say that it can easily be argued that broadcasting your network over other people's property, unsecured means you are effectively giving your consent for people to use that network.

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The important point about the radio analogy is that the signal is being sent without your consent into your home.  My point only covers use of wireless internet that doesn't involve actual trespass. 

In this sense it is different than the apple analogy.  To take an apple you must trespass or at minimum enter the other persons property.  I think a more apt analogy would be an apple tree that your neighbor plants on the border of the property line such that the limbs of the tree hang over your yard.  If apples fall off the branch on to your yard and you take one, how is that theft?  You didn't plant the tree in the location, you merely picked up something which ended up on your property only through the carelessness of your neighbor, and something which is quite reasonably "abandoned" or ownerless.

However, as a homeowner, my property does not include radio-frequency waves that are transmitted such that they cross the space over my real estate. I cannot claim a right to do as I want with them.

The right to property is first established and gained by whomever develops it: turns it into something of value. Thus the people who developed the land my house sits on established their right to it, and through a chain of sellers and buyers, I eventually acquired that right. But these people didn't do anything that established a right to any radio waves. As far as the original developers of my property were concerned, radio waves might as well have not existed: they didn't do anything to make them economically valuable. Therefore, although I've paid for the right to use my house and land, I haven't paid for any right to use radio waves. So what I acquired was a right to the physical property.

On the other hand, the right to portions of the radio frequency spectrum was established by the people who developed it: the inventors of radio and the builders of the transmitters and other infrastructure to make use of it. Indirectly through them, a wireless ISP owner has acquired the right to use a piece of that spectrum. I can't go using it without his consent, even though I can easily access it on my physical property.

So, it would indeed be wrong for me to take advantage of an unsecured wireless internet signal and use something that somebody else has paid for, without his consent. It isn't abandoned property.

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It appears that this is actually going to be provided by Google for free:

Google bids to help San Francisco go wireless

lol, I just came back here to post that I found out it's Google who is funding the whole thing. The first thing I read about them made it seem like it was all the City's doing.

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I am not sure why the fact that the radio waves did not exist or were not developed by the original owners of your property matters exactly.

For instance if a stream changes course so that it now runs on your property, you don't have a right to use it because it was not part of the original development of the land and rights gained by the first owner?

Or if someone builds a drive-in theater across the street that you can see from your bedroom window you can't watch it because the rights to the film and projector were never part of the original value of your property?

Or consider this hypothetical. Suppose that someone starts a regular broadcast TV station but says that the station isn't free, if you want to watch it you must send them $10 each month. Since every home with a TV can just tune in the channel with their rabbit-ears, is everybody supposed to just close their eyes and plug their ears when flipping through the channels in case they accidentially start watching the "pay" channel by mistake?

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Of course, but depending on the circumstances property may be considered "abandoned" or ownerless. 
Since the owner is still paying for and actually using the property, I do not think one can validly claim it to be abandoned or ownerless. Also, don't forget, using a wireless internet connection is not a passive act. It is not the discovery of something someone has discarded. It is the interactive use of property that is currently owned and currently used.

The analogy to an open door to someone's house is quite accurate here. A wireless signal is just that. It is an open door to someone else's property. To get anything - a web page, one's email, anything - one must enter that property. One must send a signal through one's hardware and across the lines they have paid for, in order to access those things.

The signal - the open door - however, is not an invitation. It is not permission to enter that property (be it the house or the modem). The fact that one can see the open door (to the house or to the modem) from one's own property does not somehow create a permission to enter that property. As such, at the very least, entering that property (house or modem) without express permission of the owner is trespass.

Also property that is sent to another person without their approval, request, etc is not required to be returned or unused.
If someone accidentally sends another person property, that does not give one ownership of it. And because it is an accident, one does not have to expend one's time and energy to return it. But neither does one properly get to use it - ie treat it as if it is one's property.
For instance if a company sends you a product in the mail without you ordering it and then asks for you to pay for it, you don't have to pay (or even return the property I believe.)
This is correct. No one can place an obligation upon another person for something that other person did not agree to. But neither can the other person properly claim ownership of that which he refuses to accept in trade. That would be fraud.

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I am not really convinved that the access of unsecured wireless signals actually constitutes "entering" property in the same way that walking through a door does. I think there are various valid arguments which could be made for exactly which point on the internet one actually trespasses into someone else's property. Right now I am unwilling to set the bar as low as accessing a publicly broadcast signal.

Part of the reason why is that although it does take a small positive act to access the signal, the owner of the signal made the decision to broadcast it over a range which included your property and also decided not to secure the signal.

As in my TV analogy it just seems strange to think that a person can broadcast a public signal into someone else's home which requires no special hardware, software, descramblers, hacking etc, to access and yet he can claim that accessing it is equivilant to theft and criminal trespass.

Just as with real property you must put up signs saying "No trespassing" with your internet property you should be forced to do the same thing, which in this case I think amounts to setting up some sort of security however minimal or easily bypassed. All that matters is that potential accessers of the signal need to know that the broadcaster does not want other people accessing the signal.

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Or consider this hypothetical.  Suppose that someone starts a regular broadcast TV station but says that the station isn't free, if you want to watch it you must send them $10 each month.  Since every home with a TV can just tune in the channel with their rabbit-ears, is everybody supposed to just close their eyes and plug their ears when flipping through the channels in case they accidentially start watching the "pay" channel by mistake?

Vladimir, I think the above is a good example of why the point I suspect you are trying to make might have a certain degree of validity. From a strictly legal standpoint, it may very well not be theft. But that is an entirely different issue as to whether it is theft from a moral standpoint.

Now, one major difference between the TV station and wireless Internet signals is that the broadcasts on the channels 2 - 69 frequencies are presumed to be for public consumption and if the owners wish for them to be otherwise, it is their responsibility to scramble the signals.

(As an historical aside, many may not realize that there was a brief period during the early 1980s when exactly that was done in certain major cities that did not yet have cable television. Certain UHF channels with scrambled signals existed for the purpose of showing premium content that was made available to subscribers who had special descrambling devices on their rooftops. Once cable television, and later satellite television arrived, such channels became obsolete and most of the channels ended up becoming independent broadcast stations. )

With wireless Internet signals, however, there is definitely NOT an expectation of intent that others will intercept and use those signals. But I don't know whether that is sufficient to make it illegal. There are other types of radio transmissions that are also not intended for public consumption either such as police and airline communications but there is nothing illegal about eavesdropping in on them. If you were to set up some sort of wireless intercom or video camera network inside your house, there would be nothing illegal about your nosy next door neighbor who was able to passively receive those signals tuning in and gossiping about it later. But your neighbor would be a rather creep person to say the least. Whether or not the same principle applies from a legal standpoint with regard to wireless Internet access, I am not sure. But I am not aware of any other type of situation where it is illegal to merely access the radio signals that are transmitted to one's property as they are transmitted. Where it usually becomes illegal is to descramble those signals.

Now, with regard to the moral issue, I would say that mooching off one's next door neighbor's wireless Internet connection without permission his is definitely freeloading and inappropriate. To use a different example to make the same point, if you were to place some sort of amplification device between your ear and the wall dividing your apartment from your neighbor's in order to snoop in on his private conversations, what you are doing might not be illegal but it is highly unethical.

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I am not really convinved that the access of unsecured wireless signals actually constitutes "entering" property in the same way that walking through a door does.
I submit the two are fundamentally the same:

One contacts the property of another (the modem, etc) without that other's consent.

One contacts the property of another (the house, etc) without that other's consent.

Contact with the person or property of another without their consent is the initiation of force. In both instances, the form of force is trespass.

I think there are various valid arguments which could be made for exactly which point on the internet one actually trespasses into someone else's property.  Right now I am unwilling to set the bar as low as accessing a publicly broadcast signal.
The argument I present is not one pertaining to the signal. It pertains to the hardware one must access (hub, cables, wire, etc) in order to do anything with that signal - ie to actually reach a web page, email, or anything else). That property is not one's own and one does not have permission to use it.
Part of the reason why is that although it does take a small positive act to access the signal
The positive act is the issue here. And the effort required to take that action is irrelevant to whether that contact with the other person's property is consensual. If it is not consensual, then it does not matter whether the person had to expend an enormous amount of energy or virtually no energy at all . The act is a violation of the property owner's right. It is a violation because of the contact and because of the lack of consent. Nothing more.
the owner of the signal made the decision to broadcast it over a range which included your property and also decided not to secure the signal.
This assumes facts that are not in evidence. The fact is the signal is not secure. There is no indication, however, that this was done purposefully. Nor is there an indication that it, being unsecured, is an invitation to any and all individuals to use that internet connection.

The fact that someone's property is unsecured does not mean it may be used without the persmission of its owner.

Using the door example again. According to the premise being presented, unless one blocks the view of one's front door from any other property, then if one leaves that door open, one is automatically granting permission for anyone who can see the open door to enter that house. In other words, the claim is - because the home owner "decided" not to secure the house (by closing and locking the door) and "decided" not to hide the door from view of passers by (by putting a wall or shrubs or something in front of the door), that home owner is automatically granting anyone who can see the open door access to that property.

I have to say that premise is completely false - be it applied to the door, the signal, or any thing else.

Just as with real property you must put up signs saying "No trespassing"
Is your argument that, without a "No Trespassing" sign, anyone may enter your "real" property and use it if you leave your door open? If so, I have to strenuously disagree.

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It appears that this is actually going to be provided by Google for free:

Google bids to help San Francisco go wireless

That's just great. And when Google giving out free highspeed Internet access in San Francisco causes all other ISPs to pull put of the market, perhaps Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Leftist nutcases that infest that part of the world will persuade Google to filter its search engines and blog sites to disregard offensive content that contains certain unacceptable words - such as "capitalism" or "freedom" or "liberty" or "hamburger" etc. By then Google certainly will have gained plenty of practice from its experience in China. Not only that, San Francisco has a very large Chinese community. Perhaps Google could take a cue from Yahoo and report to the thugs in Beijing the names of people of Chinese origin who reside in San Francisco whose online activities brand them as "trouble makers" so Beijing's agents here in America can "deal with them."

I am only being partially facetious here. One of the things that really sends shivers down my spine is when city governments start talking about giving away free wireless Internet. The thought of the GOVERNMENT being everyone's ISP - which is what will happen if this catches on and the regular ISPs fold - ought to be VERY frightening. After all, we can't have people using the "public Internet connections" for doing things such as looking at dirty pictures or engaging in Forum discussions in ways that might violate the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act. Beyond concerns about government access to people's surfing habits and the potential for censorship of content, one should simply ask what would things be like today if governments a decade ago decided to make dial up access "free" for everyone and killed off the ISPs. I suspect we would have Algore running around complaining about how unfair it is that only the wealthy suburbs have access to those newfangled "high speed" 56k dial-up connections while the governments of the less wealthy cities have a hard enough time trying to provide 28k service for everyone else.

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A comparison between a TV broadcast and wireless access to the internet has been made on a few occasions now. This analogy is a false one. A television viewer only receives a signal from the broadcaster. He does not send a signal back and with it use the broadcaster's equipment. And use of that equipment is the issue here. It is the use of that private property (the 'broadcast' equipment) without the property owner's permission that is the issue.

In other words, the fact that a 'broadcast' is being made does not give a receiver of that broadcast the right to use the broadcaster's equipment if that receiver finds a way to access that equipment via the broadcast signal.

Now, with regard to the moral issue, I would say that mooching off one's next door neighbor's wireless Internet connection without permission his is definitely freeloading and inappropriate.    To use a different example to make the same point, if you were to place some sort of amplification device between your ear and the wall dividing your apartment from your neighbor's in order to snoop in on his private conversations, what you are doing might not be illegal but it is highly unethical.
I believe this argument to be correct.

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Clearly we can find some difference between physical entry into a man's house and electromagnetic entry: I don't see how that changes the principle, that the wireless connection is another person's property, which you are (well, he is) taking and using without permission. Vladimir, I think you are just wrong about taking an unsecured wireless connection to be evidence of permission. People are just not that computer-smart: some people are, and most aren't. It's much easier to protect yourself against computer viruses -- the fact that a number of people don't manage to be rigorously protected is no proof that they are consenting to be attacked.

"No Trespassing" signs are only necessary to make evident that you deny the generally granted permission to property access that's otherwise presumed in society. There are no clear social conventions on wireless use, because it's new enough technology with sufficiently restricted distribution that you simply cannot assert that there is an implicit welcome mat just because the bars aren't up.

It appears to me, based on Dismuke's presentation of the facts, that his priend probably is stealing service: of course that may not be the case, and we'll just have to leave it to him to judge based on the facts. The crucial question is, does the user have an honest belief that the free signal that he is using is provided as a public service. I suggest a test. Point the browser to http://192.168.0.1 and enter "admin" as the username, no password. If you succeed, then you've broken into an innocent neighbor's unsecured network, somebody who doesn't know how to set these things up.

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It appears to me, based on Dismuke's presentation of the facts, that his priend probably is stealing service: of course that may not be the case, and we'll just have to leave it to him to judge based on the facts. The crucial question is, does the user have an honest belief that the free signal that he is using is provided as a public service.

Actually, the person in my example isn't a friend - it is the brother of someone I know from work. The way that the story was presented to me, I have no doubt that the person is aware that the signals are not always intended as a public service as he is supposed to be rather tech savvy. My guess is his thought process on the subject is limited to something along the lines of: If I pick up a signal, I'll surf. If not, not.

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