Rhodri Marsden: Love thy neighbour by sharing your Wi-Fi

Cyberclinic

You have to do only a quick scan for wireless-access points near your home or office to get an idea of attitudes towards sharing them with strangers. "Keep Out" and "No Entry" are common names, as are ruder, unprintable versions. One near me is just labelled "No" – which I'm guessing is the answer to the question: "Can I use your internet connection?". But if you have the technical savvy to change the name of your wireless network (the SSID), you're also capable of making it invisible to casual snoopers, rendering this stern grandstanding a bit pointless. Like standing outside your house 24-7 and regularly saying: "You're not coming in."

One recent survey in the US found that 40 per cent of broadband subscribers are more likely to trust someone with their house key than their Wi-Fi password. Which is a fairly preposterous statistic, but there are a good reasons for the lockdown. I once saw an SSID labelled "Don't Steal Our Internet", and while that's a clumsy way of expressing it, it recognises that our connections are finite resources, thanks to data caps; we'll either get warned or charged extra if freeloaders push us over the limit.

Then there are the numerous privacy and security issues. Geeks with criminal intent could intercept traffic coming to and from your devices, and if the security on your computer is poor, anyone joining your router could access your files, too. If someone uses your connection for nefarious purposes, you'd be in the firing line if the police got involved, and while your innocence could be established fairly easily, who wants that kind of hassle? Lastly, some ISPs expressly forbid in their terms and conditions sharing your connection. After all, why would they let your neighbour piggyback, when they could prise money out of them by providing the service to them direct?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is campaigning against this mindset among ISPs and consumers. It believes that sharing wireless connections should be classed as basic politeness, that it's the "socially responsible" thing to do. There's certainly no doubt that free access to Wi-Fi is useful, particularly when we're abroad and data charges are so punitive; indeed, the same survey as above reckoned that 32 per cent of us have tried to access wireless points without permission in the past. If you believe in computing karma and you've ever needed access to free Wi-Fi, perhaps you should offer that option to others. But how does the EFF answer the points about security and privacy?

Well, newer routers give the option of having one password-protected access point for your devices, and a second, open one for anyone nearby; you control the bandwidth, and naturally your personal use always takes priority. A service along these lines is already provided by BT in partnership with Fon at btfon.com, and again, it's a karmic concept: if you offer some of your own bandwidth at home, you're permitted to use any of the access points belonging to the four million other people worldwide who also use the scheme. It's all a lovely, utopian vision of free Wi-Fi access, but probably destined to be stymied by people pointing out that if they're paying for it, they're the only ones who are going to use it.

***

The concept of connectivity wherever we roam will be enhanced next year when the carmaker Ford takes the step of transforming the Ford Focus into a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot on wheels – a facility one more usually associates with chauffeur-driven limos.

The in-car technology allows you to share the data facility of your mobile phone or wireless dongle; plug them into the USB socket behind the gear stick and the car sets up a password-secured wireless network for passengers to hook up to with their phones, tablets or laptops.

Ford plans to roll this out to other vehicles in the future; it doesn't fit with the EFF's vision above (unless you display the password in your back window and allow people to tailgate dangerously), but it's a nice facility nonetheless.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Dynamics CRM Developer (C#, .NET, Dynamics CRM 2011/2013)

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Dynamics CRM D...

    Web Developer (C#, ASP.NET, AJAX, JavaScript, MVC, HTML)

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Web Developer ...

    C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

    £50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

    C# Developer (Web, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, JS, Visual Studios)

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?