Wi-Fi, a shortened name for wireless fidelity internet access, is a method of connecting to the Internet using radio waves rather than cables, thus making computer usage more convenient than ever as the user is no longer restricted to the confines of his or her own private space. Now a wireless computer user can tap into their own or their employer’s wireless network, but they also may be able to tap into neighbor’s as well. With the increased availability of wireless computer networks comes a new ethical dilemma. Just because you can tap into someone else’s computer network, known variously as piggybacking, whacking, joyriding, war-chalking, air-hopping or war-driving, does that mean that it is ethical to do so?
While many people believe that tapping into someone else’s wireless network is a harmless activity and has no downsides for the wireless network’s owner, in reality there are indeed negative consequences and therefore the practice cannot be considered ethical. Courts have determined that joyriding on another’s wireless network is a case of trespass against the owner’s router because this action could cause harm by slowing down the speed of the network and/or by introducing viruses into that network. The person tapping into someone else’s Wi-Fi also causes harm to the Internet Service Provider. These companies are in business to sell access to the Internet. Using someone else’s account without their authorization denies companies their rightful profit.
There is also the potential harm that comes because someone doesn’t secure their Wi-Fi. It allows unauthorized access and in some cases allows firewalls and filters which have been established for security and safety particularly for minors to be evaded and ignored. Internet intruders can access websites that are illegal and get the owners of the router into trouble because it is their IP address that will show up. Hackers can listen in on network traffic and obtain information that people are unaware is being received. It is bad enough when an individual doesn’t secure their network but sometimes it is businesses whose customers are completely unaware of the security breach.
So for all of these reasons a new ethical code must be established which emphasizes to everyone that being a Wi-Fi parasite is not the right thing to do. Without a code of ethics any of the following two scenarios might happen in any school district across the country.
Scenario #1: Ms. C the school library media specialist (SLMS) at Exemplary High School uses her networked PC extensively during the day to help students do research, to communicate with staff members and administration via email, to access her library’s automation system, and to keep herself up-to-date on what is going on in her field. She can’t do her job without the use of a computer with Internet access.
One day the school’s network goes down. At first Ms. C views it as a minor annoyance but as the hours go by her growing frustration at not...