A man in London was arrested for using an open Wi-Fi network from someone's unsecured broadband link from a nearby house. Similar arrests have happened in the US and this makes me wonder: Can owning a Wi-Fi Skype phone land you in jail?
I was reviewing a Wi-Fi enabled Skype phone and an interesting thing happened when I took it on a trip. I was in an unfamiliar place and someone rang my review Skype phone and I answered the call as if I had a cell phone. But wait a minute, how did I manage to get a connection? After some further investigation I determined that the phone was automatically configured to connect any "open" (read unsecured) Wi-Fi network it can find. Of course the majority of users won't ever bother changing the default settings and many won't even know how to change it or what it implies if they don't change it. Would this make them criminals in the eyes of the law since ignorance is never an excuse?
The issue of "open" Wi-Fi networks is something that any modernized society needs to work out. Of course there's no question that if someone broke in to an even weakly defended Wi-Fi network that they're at least guilty of bandwidth theft, but "open" networks are a very slippery slope. What happens if your computer happens to use the same SSID like "Linksys" or "Netgear" and your computer automatically connected to that network because it thought it was your home network? Does that make you a criminal? What happens if it's a free Wi-Fi hotspot or you thought it was a free hotspot, does that make you a criminal? All these questions have to be answered but it's another one of those issues that the law is grossly behind on.