Wi-Fi mooching and the law

    Date08 Jul 2005
    8387
    Posted ByBrittany Day
    The recent arrest of a Florida man on charges of unauthorized use of a wireless network could set legal ground rules for open Wi-Fi access.

    A man sitting in a Chevy Blazer in a residential neighborhood reportedly was poking around nearby wireless networks in violation of computer crime laws, according to local police.

    This appears to be the first arrest in which the sole offense was allegedly accessing a wireless network without prior authorization, and it's already being viewed as a probable test case. CNET News.com interviewed legal scholars to ask what rules apply to Wi-Fi (also called 802.1x) hot spots.

    Is it legal to use someone's Wi-Fi connection to browse the Web if they haven't put a password on it?
    Nobody really knows. "It's a totally open question in the law," says Neal Katyal, a professor of criminal law at Georgetown University. "There are arguments on both sides."

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