When Wi-Fi Goes Wrong

People go to some great lengths to get free Wi-Fi — but, as a 16-year-old boy discovered this week, tapping into your neighbor’s connection could have some severe consequences.

British police actually arrested a teen on suspicion of using his neighbor’s wireless connection Sunday night, The Register reports. Officers in Lincolnshire say the family next door complained their Internet access seemed slow — an odd problem to go to the police with, one might think. Nonetheless, cops showed up and took the kid into custody.

The teen says he “might have accidentally clicked on the wrong connection” when starting up his laptop. Or, hell, maybe he intentionally logged in to the neighbor’s apparently unsecured network. But is either an arrest-warranting crime?

Hacking, of course, would be a violation of the law. Assuming all the teen did was log in, though — whether by mistake or on purpose — that doesn’t seem to constitute any form of hacking I know.

The kid’s father agrees. He’s filed a formal complaint of unlawful arrest and detention. He’s also gone as far as to submit his son’s laptop for “forensic analysis,” presumably to show there was no sort of questionable behavior involved.

I’m by no means a lawyer, but it appears to me the only crime committed here was one of stupidity — on behalf of the neighbor who neglected to secure his wireless connection, then called the cops when he thought someone else was using it.

Maybe I should phone up the police to report him.