Internet Law

Watch Out, UK Wireless Thieves

Those who see nothing wrong with piggybacking on someone else’s wireless Internet service may want to think twice about doing so in and around London.

British authorities have arrested a 39-year-old man seen using his laptop on the street, charging him with what the London Times describes as suspicion of logging on illegally to a wireless broadband connection for which he hadn’t paid. If convicted, he faces a fine and up to six months of potential jail time. The unnamed man admitted to police that he had indeed been using a nearby homeowner’s unsecured wireless connection, according to the newspaper, which notes that the first conviction in such a case occurred in 2005.

“This arrest should act as a warning to anyone who thinks it is acceptable to illegally use other people’s broadband connections,” says Detective Constable Mark Roberts of the West London case. “To do so potentially breaches the Computer Misuse Act and the Communications Act, so computer users need to be aware that this is unlawful, and police will investigate any violation we become aware of.”

Public sympathy, however, may be on the side of the criminals in such cases. “It’s a bit like arresting someone for standing in the street and smelling the roses in a neighbour’s garden,” reads one comment to the Times about the story.

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