On Saturday The News York Times ran a front-page story that describes how criminals use other people's wireless networks to avoid detection. "The public needs to realize that all they're doing is making it harder on me to go find the bad guys," a former Secret Service agent told the Times. "How would you feel if you're sitting at home and meanwhile someone is using your Wi-Fi to hack a bank or hack a company and downloads a million credit card numbers, which happens all the time? I come to you and knock on your door, and all you can say is, 'Oops.'"
The implication seems to be that good citizens have a duty to lock down their networks, lest they become unwitting accomplices to identity theft, fraud, copyright infringement, and distribution of child pornography. But as the article notes, any open Wi-Fi network (including those set up by libraries or local governments to benefit the general public), can be used for illegal ends—as can public roads, pay phones, rental cars, etc. When individuals or businesses choose to leave his networks open as a gesture of good will toward neighbors and passers-by, are they being negligent or just friendly?
It's also odd that people who get a free ride on someone else's unsecured network can be charged with "theft of telecommunications services." If a passer-by's use of my network does not impair my use of it and does not cost me anything, what exactly has been stolen? If I have made no attempt to exclude him, it doesn't even seem like trespassing.