Sunday, November 19, 2006

POST #4 Thoughts Related to Wired Mag Article

While at work, I take the opportunity to talk with people (mainly younger patients or visitors) about technology. I spoke to a patient who was entertaining herself by watching DVDs while recuperating. She was happy to tell me about her experiences with her laptop such as battery life, mouse use, portability and theft deterrence . One of the interesting things she told me was that she did not pay for internet access..ever. She simply made use of other people's wireless nodes... and not always the free access at coffee shops.

I thought no more about it until the following day, when I started to read my first issue of Wired magazine dated November, 2006. On page 60, there is a column called "Mr. know-it-all". Readers submit questions to the columnist, Clive Thompson. A reader asks about the legality of tapping into WI-FI nodes as he travels. It seems the law is not too specific in its language related to this topic, says a computer privacy lawyer consulted by the article's author. It seems to be a question of what the intent of the perpetrator is. Or, whether the computer software itself is to blame because it is programmed to pick up upon the strongest signal. Even when people are charged with this violation,' "none have made it to trial" ' . The author considers it an ethical issue. Should you do it even if you can get away with it? And if it is done what are the limits of bandwith sharing?
Certainly, he argues, you should never use another's signal to do anything illegal such as violate copyright.

So, what does this have to do with libraries? Well, the thing that comes to mind is that sharing information should not be limited to those with the wherewithall to afford access. My first thought about this young lady was that she was probably not in the habit of stealing, and would be insulted by the accusation. She probably viewed it like a person reading a magazine in doctor's office waiting room. It is there, so why not use it? Or like a person reading a book or magazine in a library. Several United States cities, including Chicago and San Francisco, are exploring making WI-FI available to the entire city. I think that would be a wonderful and forward thinking accomplishment to provide "ambient findability" (to borrow from Peter Morville) to everyone.


Blogger Michelle said...

It's interesting thought that many libraries are ahead of the game with providing free wireless and computer internet access.

11:24 AM


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