Wi-Fi Freeloader Arrested in Washington

22 Jun ’06

Glenn has the details (Update: more here). Certainly freeloading is frustrating for small merchants wanting to offer free wifi, but at the end of the day I don’t know what this story is about, if not simply the criminalization of wifi freeloading to spare merchants the inconvenience of protecting access. What an odd purpose for criminal law, and what an odd use of a police force.

To my mind, if one wants to offer wifi, one should have to do it responsibly. Here’s to decriminalizing wifi freeloading, so that the burden falls on those offering access to use basic prudence to protect themselves if they wish their wifi to be private (remember personal responsibility?). Oh, and immunize mere providers (under U.S. law, does an operator of an open access point have this protection already?) from the unlawful use by others of their wifi (you should be responsible for the commercial consequences of allowing unrestricted access, but I don’t see why that should extend to responsibility for the unlawful acts of others, whether access is open or not).

Or, as an alternative, the media could simply hyperventilate excessively about wifi freeloading, particularly when there are prurient details, so that middle America will come to see it as a safe haven for sex offenders, drug dealers and terrorists, and live forever after in constant fear of it.

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