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That's not yours

Posted by bsandersen on July 7, 2005 at 6:25 AM PDT

A friend pointed me to a story that just made me shake my head. Engadget has an article talking about wardriving (looking for Wireless Access Points--usually non-public ones).

Some of the promise of Java is its ability to work well on a network. There are some very exciting things in our future if we start allowing the collection of things in our lives become the network of things in our lives. But all of this is at risk if we can't control our criminal impulses. Right now we all have firewalls in front of anything important on our networks because bad guys are always trying the door knobs and locks at every entrance. This wardriving thing, though, strikes me as something more insidious. At this point, using my house analogy, I can't have any glass windows because passers-by feel entitled to throw bricks through them!

There is a problem in this country that needs to be addressed (or at least identified): just because you can see it, or reach it, doesn't make it yours. This is something that used to be taught to 2-year-olds, but somehow the lesson has been lost on people as old as 72.

A fellow I used to work with spent a few years in Bali. He may have been exaggerating a little but he told me that people there are so terrified of being thought a thief that they'll let a wallet lay in the middle of the sidewalk for days rather than pick it up and see if they couldn't return it somehow. "That's not mine!", is well understood there (even if it is taken to an extreme).

The questions become: why can't this be understood here? Sniffing for a public, welcoming WAP is OK. If you accidentally see a private one, or even temporarily mistake a private one (viewed from a public place) as a public WAP, that should be OK. Driving around small neighborhoods looking for WAPs that are obviously private WAPs is not cool.

If you look in a window and see your neighbor's wife naked it is either because of an innocent happenstance or it's because you're stalking their house with high-power binoculars. The fact that you did it from the street doesn't relieve you of the well-earned moniker peeping tom.

People need to stop being hi-tech peeping toms, looking for WAPs in all the wrong places. If a two-year-old can get it, wardrivers should be able to get it. The greatest asset of an open society and exchange-based economy is the honesty and integrity of those who live in it. The community of network devices deserves no less.

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