122 Comments

Summary:

Readers, I need your thoughts on an etiquette issue associated with technology. Yesterday morning I was at the San Francisco airport finishing up a story while waiting for a flight. Inspired by my colleague James over at jkOnTheRun, I had my laptop and my Verizon MiFi […]

cimg1496Readers, I need your thoughts on an etiquette issue associated with technology. Yesterday morning I was at the San Francisco airport finishing up a story while waiting for a flight. Inspired by my colleague James over at jkOnTheRun, I had my laptop and my Verizon MiFi out on the table. The MiFi is a handy little device that uses Verizon’s 3G network to provide a Wi-Fi signal for up to five devices to access the web. Using it, I can download 5GB on my laptop, iPod Touch or any other WiFi-enabled device, for $60 a month.

A fellow traveler spied the device, knew what it was (only in San Francisco), and asked if he could piggyback on my connection to do some work. I politely said no, then packed up my stuff to change locations so he would think I had to leave and not that I was a complete jerk (James over at jkOTR would also say no). But was I? I was hesitant to share my connection with a total stranger because of the potential security risks, and because I had no idea how much of my 5GB he would use. I wondered if he was the type of person who wanders over to you in a Starbucks asking to borrow your laptop so he can check his email. But in a similar situation, readers, would you share? Is it rude to ask?

  1. You did good, Stacey. Data cap issues aside, this is no different than telling your neighbor he/she can share your WiFi connection at home. It’s not right.

    Share
    1. What’s wrong with sharing a wifi link with the neighbors?
      Is it just windows security issues? Chances of getting in trouble from the ‘borrowers’ traffic?
      These can both be managed to a reasonable lower level of risk.
      Telco companies have a monopoly on internet access via 3G etc, and charge way too much for data access.
      If everyone’s wireless access points were open, the cost of sending text messages would plummet to zero, where it belongs – as an example of one benefit.

      Share
      1. You forget that these companies are in the business of making money, not supplying you with a free service. If everyone shared as you suggest, they would just have to raise the cost to those who actually paid to allow the company to continue to make a profit. When people cheat the system by trying to get something for nothing, they cost those who are honest and pay for what they use. Nothing is free. Someone has to pay for it.

        Share
      2. What’s wrong with sharing a WiFi connection? Seriously? For one, how well do you know your neighbors? You don’t know what kind of activities they engage in online. They could be pedophiles. They could be skinheads or serial killers or online stalkers. They could be anything. You don’t know.

        From a legal standpoint, allowing them to use your wireless Internet connection exposes you to whatever potentially illegal activities they may engage in. Law enforcement will trace their activities back to your wireless connection and whether you were aware of their activities or not, you’d still be in a position to have to clear your name and deal with any legal ramifications that may result from your wireless Internet connection being used in the planning or execution of illegal activities.

        This isn’t like sharing your pencil in kindergarten or passing the salt or steak sauce to an adjoining table in a restaurant. There are very real risks to sharing your wireless Internet connection with strangers. Dawn a tinfoil hat for just a second and ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Then think about what you’d do if the worst really did happen. Is it worth it? If you’ve got a modicum of common sense, your answer is a resounding, “NO!”

        Share
    2. But this is not you telling your neighbor that they can use it. It’s your neighbor coming over asking whether to use it. Totally different case. But still, Stacey was right in denying to share…

      Share
    3. It’s not right? Why is it not right to share? Didn’t you learn that lesson in kindergarten? I shared my WiFi connection all the time at my old apartment. Why wouldn’t I? There is very little downside.

      As for security:
      1. If you rely on WiFi security, it is easily broken anyway. Your “secure” traffic should be on SSL, SSH, or similar. Even if WiFi was secure, it isn’t secure as soon as it hits the internet.

      Then think of the benefit to them vs. the cost to you. In a “normal” case, you pay nothing more, and they get benefit. This is the kind of situation where helping someone is a no-brainer.

      What’s more, next time, when *you* are in need of internet, wouldn’t you be glad if someone helped you? Can’t happen? Well when you come visit Japan and want to use my eMobile Pocket WiFi we’ll see…

      Why are people who have the money to buy things so stingy to others? You should be glad you are lucky and share the wealth. I am not that rich, but I help people when I can, especially when it does no harm to me.

      Share
      1. It’s polite and fine and good to unconditionally share pencils, crayons, garden tools, a cup of sugar…. things that are innocuous and returnable. But that courtesy doesn’t have to extend to an expensive, limited resource. A MiFi is just that: it can cost $40-$60 a month and for that you only get 5GB of transfer per month.

        Besides that, sharing your internet connection with neighbors is one thing: you know who they are, you know where they live, and you (hopefully) know what good and honest people they are. But there is plenty of downside in sharing an internet connection with someone you don’t know at all. Password/Virus/Security issues aside, you have no idea what that person might be doing with an internet connection that you are paying for. It could be as inconvenient as hogging your internet connection and taking up a significant amount of your 5GB monthly cap on a MiFi. It could be as inconsiderate as uploading large amounts of data and significantly increasing your latency and load times while you try do your work.

        Or, they could get you in trouble by torrenting copyrighted content that gets tracked by MPAA/RIAA (regardless of your politics on this matter, the point is they could do it and the IP would point to you, not them). Or they could do much, much worse (distribute child porn, send presidential death threats, etc, etc).

        Granted the last bits are extreme, but it boils down to you simply not knowing what this person is going to do. Whether you like it or not, anyone who uses your internet connection basically represents you on the ‘net, and if their actions are serious enough to get the attention of the right people, you end up answering for it. If someone comes knocking at your door for something the neighbors did on your shared WiFi, its easy to point to them, but some guy at an airport that you will never see again is hard to point the finger at.

        If you want to share you internet connection with total strangers, that’s all fine and good, more power to you. But I see no shame at all in saying no.

        Share
      2. This isnt about money….are you retarded or maybe still in kindergarten? There were a lot of things in kindergarten that aren’t applicable as adults with responsibilities. Do you still hold hands with classmates when you cross the street? That logic is like saying you should share your toothbrush w someone because its unlikely you will get whatever germs they have and besides they could just steal your toothbrush anyway… would you share a soda with a stranger? its not about money, its not about “making everyone pay their fair share” Its just not something you share. period. Idiots like you are the ones who end up trusting things they shouldn’t with strangers, and then cry when something bad happens that the government should have protected them. Congrats you picked the oldest scapegoat in the book. the rich. Way to really challenge yourself in this debate. You noble fool.

        Share
  2. I was once asked to share mine with visitors from an important customer. Giving them access to our corporate wi-fi would have taken too long (paperwork, etc.) so I simply gave them the default password to my MiFi, figuring we’d never be within 30 feet of each other again. In retrospect, I probably would have demurred, but under the circumstances, I felt obligated. The main visitor involved (from a leading router manufacturer) was evidently running some kind of internal IM/chat app with his corporate headquarters, and I noticed that the traffic light on my MiFi blinked constantly and my load speed decreased significantly.

    Share
  3. The Sprint MiFi has a way to set a temporary password on the fly which would be an easy way to share if obligated to do so.

    Share
  4. Sounds like you did the right thing to me. In no way are you obligated to share your connecting. Now if you want to charge them…

    Share
  5. entropy1980 Friday, July 24, 2009

    Totally rude for the person to ask. I would have told them no, and sat there. I mean really? If the guy knew what it was then he knew how much it costs a month and should no better than to ask. Sheesh!

    Share
    1. Rude to ask? Since when is it rude to ask?

      Share
      1. It is very aggressive and rude to ask. As a MiFi owner I am well aware of the privacy issues and the cost. It is also an invasion of privacy.

        Share
      2. I wouldn’t say it’s rude to ask at all. It’s part of normal human interaction to ask if someone can do something they would like to do, instead of just taking what one wants.

        However, it’s also not rude to decline such a request.

        Share
  6. Why is sharing your WiFi connection with your neighbor not right? ISP user agreements? I’m a FON user, which exists only because people everywhere _do_ share their wifi. Any data that really needs to be secure is protected at a level higher than your wifi encryption.

    Share
    1. Jdk, in a perfect world I’d say yes, absolutely! However, this world is far from perfect. Perhaps that guy you shared your internet with used it to emailed a bomb threat, transferred thousands of credit cards numbers he stole, or perhaps he is IMing underage children. I admit the first two cases are extreme; however, the third…maybe not so much. And think about this…if one were to partake in illegal activity any criminal with half a brain knows it’s not smart to use any IP address that is going to be traced back to them. Normally such an individual would piggyback off an unsecured Wifi (or one “secured” with WEP;) . However, this requires the user to either try finding a hotspot which doesn’t require registration (I’m guessing they’re out there, though not 100%) or parking near an unsecured AP (ie: in front of someone house–I’m assuming the business community have gotten the message by now). Therefore, each of those presents some sort of risk (old lady down the block calls the police).

      Now with Mifi and other similar technologies, new opportunities are available for anyone desiring a level of anonymity. As police and investigators get more sophisticated, criminals will inevitably try to stay one step ahead. I would assume that a Mifi basestation operates similar to your home router–the ISP allots the subscriber one public IP address, connected equipment uses a private address, and the basestation performs NAT. So guess who law enforcement will be scheduling an appointment with…YOU!

      I truly hate taking the cynical position since after all there’s a lot of upstanding people in this world and the biggest crime they ever committed was downloading a couple of copyrighted songs or burned a copy of Windows (before M$ started with the activation s**t) for the guy at work. But seriously, I would venture a guess that I’m not the only person who’s thought of this. Moreover, I don’t know how far the police would go once you told them your “convenient story” (more cynicism–though I’ll leave that for another rant:) about this guy that walked up to you and momentarily used your internet. And of course, how many details will you remember after a week…a month since that fateful day. After all, it’s not like you took a CC imprint and copied his driver’s license.

      If after all these scenarios, you still feel like you must share, there are a couple of things you can do to protect yourself. First and foremost, setup a GOOD software firewall to keep your new buddy from finding that network share of your C-Drive you forgot about or capturing valuable information which might get leaked by YOUR computer. It’ll also serve to plug the numerous vulnerabilities that plague Windows (to be fair, any major OS, aside from perhaps Linux, has significant weaknesses). Two, to be doubly safe, disable the “File and Printer Sharing” and “Client for MS Networks” since you shouldn’t need them when you’re by yourself browsing the internet. If you’re using a VPN and need these, read about split-tunneling and why it’s bad. Third, keep your OS and apps updated–you’re should be doing that anyway! Lastly, I’m not sure if someone might actually mind this, but ask them for any gov-issued ID. Make a mental note (better yet, write it down) of their full name or an ID# on the card. You might consider explaining to them why you’re requesting this information; that should serve to quell their confusion. And since you only have a name or ID#, which isn’t very private in the first place, they should be cooperative in knowing that nothing malicious can be done to them. Unless, on the off chance you do get an unexpected visit by the police, that info should be more than enough for a positive identity. Though I’d bet that someone with criminal aspirations would simply decline or say they don’t have an ID on them. In which case politely, but firmly, deny them access.

      All things considered, I personally wouldn’t allow a stranger to use of my internet connection or [especially] my notebook. The risks are simply unacceptable! This is also why I will never ask a stranger to use their internet; it’s just not polite to burden someone with that much risk. Most people would be very wary if a stranger asked to barrow their car. We need to apply the same common sense when it comes to technology! Obviously this post barely scratches the surface, but I hope it’s served to open some eyes.

      And if you’re wondering, no, I’m not involved with any criminal endeavors. I’m a engineering major with a passion for computer security, and at least for now, living without mobile broadband.

      Share
  7. There are only so many Skittles in a bag…

    You shouldn’t feel bad about saying no to the request. In the new day web, giving away something is the norm. Chris Anderson wrote a book about it; FREE. We are getting more and more accustomed to things being free and when we have something that isn’t (MyFI) or has a cap, our internals go out of whack when we choose not to share.

    Maybe you should monitor your monthly draw on the 5Gb limit. If at the end of one month you see you only use 2.5Gb, then maybe next time you won’t be so hesitant to say yes to this kind of request.

    BTW…I love Skittles.

    Ben

    Share
  8. Andy Burnett Friday, July 24, 2009

    Sadly, I think you are right. I wouldn’t be particularly worried about the data cap, but the security issue is important. You don’t know what viruses might be running on the other person’s machine, and we do have to take data security seriously.

    Share
    1. Stacey Higginbotham Friday, July 24, 2009

      So as a non hacker, I’m actually not sure how big of a security risk I would take by letting someone on my Wi-Fi connection. Realistically, what are the risks?

      Share
      1. According to Bruce Schneier, it’s not much of a real risk. A good article:

        http://www.wired.com/politics/security/commentary/securitymatters/2008/01/securitymatters_0110

        Share
  9. You’ve been very cheap!

    Share
  10. Tina Schumacher Friday, July 24, 2009

    I can’t believe he asked. You were in the right. I consider this under the umbrella of hygiene issues. I don’t drink from strangers cups, or ask to use their cell phones, coats or personal space.

    Share
  11. The real tragedy in this tale is the fact that SFO doesn’t have free wifi. SJC does. That’s appauling

    Share
    1. I know what you mean – sometimes I am appalled by the spelling on user comments.

      Share
  12. Mishan Aburted Friday, July 24, 2009

    Umm, I don’t think he was asking for a wireless hook-up, Stacey. Verizon’s original name for MiFi was “Nerd Magnet.” If he had been hot, you would have given him access faster than your MiFi can drop its firewall. But then viruses would have been a concern.

    Share
    1. Stacey Higginbotham Friday, July 24, 2009

      There are a lot of assumptions in this comment, Mishan, and not all of them flatter me (or the guy who asked). But I like the double entendre.

      Share
  13. I agree w/Qualis. SFO needs some free Wi-Fi. Hotspots are so 2003.

    As for sharing the Mi-Fi, I agree with most, pretty rude to ask. But as someone who’s piggybacked on a public Wi-Fi signal, I can sympathize with the guy, even as I shake my head at his gaul (sp?).

    Share
  14. Why take the myfi out of the bag? It doesn’t need to be exposed to connect. Unless you want to showoff…

    Share
    1. I agree with this – you put a device intended for sharing out on the table and someone asked to share. You’re entitled to say no, but it does seem like a dick move on the author’s part.

      Share
  15. Would you share your lipstick? How about your credit card? Of course you shouldn’t share a wifi connection (especially one you pay big bucks for a limited download for) with a complete stranger. Even a friend you should be cautious about – you never know what might be unknowingly on their computer.

    Share
  16. I’m with most other people here – you were not a jerk for saying no and he probably should not have asked. A stranger on a bus asked me once to borrow my phone because hers was out of battery and she needed to call her friend to pick her up at the stop. Considering the situation (and she looked OK, personal hygiene-wise) I said yes, but still felt odd afterwards. I later asked my friends and most of them said they would have said no.

    Share
    1. Stacey Higginbotham Friday, July 24, 2009

      I’ve been there and said yes to folks in similar situations mostly because I could hear the other person’s conversation and “police” the usage.

      Share
    2. I don’t have any problems with lending my phone for a few secs, especially for quick, “urgenty” phone calls.

      Now, if the person is just bored and wants to use my phone to call a friend and chit-chat, that’s a different story.

      Share
  17. I believe you are right and that he was rude and presumptuous to ask. I can’t believe he had the cheek !

    I do think there can be a perception difference between asking to use someone’s personal resource and asking to use a resource that their company supplies to them at no cost, the perception difference being that it is of no personal consequence to share your company’s resource.

    He may have thought that your company (enter large multi-national of your choice) just gave you the MiFi for free and therefore you would be able (and willing) to answer yes at no personal loss.

    BTW – $60pcm seems rather high. Here in the UK t-mobile do £15pcm for 3GB @ up to 7.2 Mb/s HSDPA – good luck with getting that price down…

    Share
  18. “Client confidentiality and company policy does not allow me to share this connection. Sorry”

    Share
  19. I would have shared it for 10 – 15mins. How much of my 5GB could he eat away in that time?

    Share
    1. How do you know what the guy is running on his laptop? Maybe it’s an infected bot network and he does not even know about it. What if he downloads child pornography while being connected? Sorry, maybe far-fetched, but not out of the realm of possibilities…

      Share
  20. Your stuff is YOUR stuff. I have the Sprint MiFi version.

    What bothers me when sharing the same network is the fact that you never know if the other computer may be carrying a malicious payload which may find its (their) way onto your computer. All the more reason to be vigilant with your network AND your system firewall.

    I chime with the other folks here: keep the MiFi hidden, physically and when on the network (no SSID).

    -eQ

    Share
  21. electricdave Friday, July 24, 2009

    I don’t get it, why is it necessarily rude? I think it depends on the tone of his request and it would be reasonable to push back and ask him not to download any large files or question his own laptop security methods. Excuse me, can I read your newspaper if you’re not using it anymore?

    You should be running your computer in a user only mode anyway with at least software firewall and no install privileges and no shared directories on the network. Wifi is pretty insecure in many ways; just because it’s your MIFI doesn’t mean it is 10 times more secure. If it was me, I’d say, go for it if the other conditions above rang true.

    Share
  22. I don’t believe you were wrong at all. It was a bit presumptuous of the other gentleman to ask. I would like to think that he wasn’t aware of the bandwidth restriction, but it was still over-stepping on his part. Further, it is well documented that sharing of the MiFi connection results in reduced bandwidth for both (all) users. You could have easily been working on a project that required the transfer of a large amount of data, and his sharing could have diminished your success.

    I see NO parallels in this to sharing your home WIFI connection (especially if it is your choice).

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Next time you might want to hide your MiFi under your jacket or some paperwork.

    Share
  23. I have a MiFi too and I don’t like to share – if it were not capacity capped, I’d feel differently (maybe). My solution is that I keep my MiFi in my bag, out of sight, to deter these kind of awkward requests.

    Share
  24. Yeah, Luis was right – keep it in the bag if you don’t want to share.

    That said, probably 90% of the travelers who have laptops/iphones are unaware of security concerns and would call your move rude. It’s nice to share.

    If it were me, I’d tell the person if they just need to check one or two email accounts then no problem, but otherwise the connection is metered and it might cost me extra.

    Share
  25. I believe the majority of the sentiment here expresses my opinion: If bandwidth were free, whatever; but it’s not, so you could say so. “I have a limited amount of monthly usage with this account, and I have to preserve it all for my job.”

    Share
  26. You gotta love how data caps can turn otherwise generous and helpful people into stingy bit hoarders.

    Share
  27. Suppose I came up and asked to drink some of your coffee? It is more that this person does not know how to behave himself. Unashamed people are everywhere so forget about it.

    Share
  28. I disagree with most of the commenters. He wasn’t rude, you were. You don’t need the MiFi to connect if you have a cell data plan, you can get a card that gives you access to cellular wireless.

    The MiFi’s entire reason for existing is to provide wireless access *for more than one device* since you can use an EVDO card or similar for a single device. If you want yourself, and only yourself, to use your connection, ditch the MiFI and get whatever card plugs into your laptop and works with your carrier.

    Share
    1. Stacey Higginbotham Friday, July 24, 2009

      Interesting take. I use the MiFi because it’s faster than plugging in the dongle, manually initiating the connection with the access software and then hopping online. That being said, I did share with my coworker when we were at a corporate campus. So access convenience is my main reason for using and sharing is a fringe benefit. Or maybe it’s just a friend benefit :)

      Share
    2. The author shouldn’t have to base her network setup on what other people may infer from it. Beside the stated reasons for using the MiFi, she could have a smartphone or other Wi-Fi enabled devices and wanted a solution to allow any/all of them to connect. Buying a device that allows up to 5 devices doesn’t mean she HAS to let up to 4 other people connect.

      If a complete stranger walked up to you as you were getting in your car and asked, since you had room for 5 but were only using the driver’s seat, if he could get in and use the car, too, would you say yes?

      Share
  29. I keep mine inside my ‘manbag’ so that no one knows I’m connecting through it. Still, once in a while I get a “hey, what open network did you find?” question.

    Share
  30. It’s never rude to ask anything unless you ask rudely… Perfectly fine for you to say no, would’ve been a nice gesture to pleasantly explain honestly why you said no.

    Maybe he wasn’t really interested in using the internet… just saw it as a conversation starter.

    Share
  31. Mueller has it exactly right — as long as he asked politely, I see nothing wrong with his asking, nor with your polite refusal.

    For those who are suggesting keeping the MiFi in a bag or pocket, that does make sense most of the time. But MiFis are prone to overheating, and I find (imagine?) that mine works a more reliably if I take it out of my bag periodically while using it.

    Share
    1. I keep mine in my backpack’s iPod compartment and have never had any issue with it overheating or low performance.

      Share
  32. [...] Need a Connection? Sorry, This is MyFi– GigaOM [...]

    Share
  33. I’m with Stacy on this one. But you need to do a poll; I’m not sure I want to read all of these comments.

    Share
  34. You have every right to do what you felt was best for you and made you most comfortable. Not your job to look out for him, and you should not feel bad at all for not having done so.

    That said, I personally would have shared the connection… I just think that as a whole we have become to unwilling to help someone, even when they ask for it. I would have done it because it would have made me feel good to help out. The risk reward for me would have tilted in favor of why not.

    Share
    1. I try to help strangers, but not when it might come back to bite me like it might here.

      Share
  35. I wouldn’t share my MiFi if asked, who knows what someone is downloading (porn, terrorism, p2p). However I do share my WiFi with the neighbors because I know and trust them. Considering the amount of trouble an Internet connection in the wrong hands can cause, this would be like a stranger asking to borrow your car.

    Share
    1. Terrorism? Really?

      All these people worried about security or other negative consequences and yet nearly every coffee shop in town has open wifi that most people use AND offer without a second thought.

      While there’s no obligation to share and without going over the cap, I would consider it rude to refuse to share a resource that’s otherwise going to partly to waste (<100%?).

      Share
      1. Yes but coffee shops are treated as ISPs when it comes to abuses of an Internet connections. Average Joes are considered co-conspirators or accomplices.

        Share
  36. The law says the accomplice is as guilty as the perpetrator of a crime. I’m hesitant to let a neighbor use my Wifi because I don’t want to end up being the target of a search warrant because he (or someone he let on his computer or gave the Wifi password out to) was downloading child porn or doing something else illegal on my connection.

    The other issue, besides the data cap, is seeing your connection wiped out because someone borrows your MyFi to upload videos to YouTube. Any time I start a data upload on my computer at home, all of my other internet access slows to a crawl because of the asymmetric nature of my DSL connection.

    Plus, if you’re that desperate to get on the internet, then fork over the $50 a month. If you’re not that desperate, then sit quietly at the airport and read your Twilight novel. If your work (or play) isn’t important enough for you to part with money, it’s obviously not very important.

    Share
  37. Maybe there is a new business model embedded in this question… the roaming day-use hotspot! Just say you charge $5, or a frappucino or something per connection… maybe the MiFi could have an extra light — say blue — that advertises that you are open for business…

    Share
  38. “Wow, that smells great, mind if I get a sip of your frap too?”

    Share
  39. Gunnar Lindberg Årneby Friday, July 24, 2009

    It’s really saddening to read about how afraid of each other you americans are. No wonder guns are more important than healthcare in the US.

    Share
    1. Agree with Gunnar. Sad to see that people are so dead against sharing. Weren’t most of us taught that it is good to share what we have with others who need it, at least unless it harms us in some way. It seems that both security risk and risk of exceeding the bandwidth cap were both low in this scenario.

      Is the world getting devoid of all goodness? Are we so stingy that we can share a few megabytes of download capacity? What’s the point of advancement when all we care about are virtual facebook friends, but choose to ignore real people around us.

      Share
      1. SaketS
        While I do share food or money if I see someone in need I don’t think internet access has become a basic necessity.

        The government and police don’t care about the mystery person who used your bandwidth at the airport, they care about prosecuting someone, and if it comes back to you I hope you have a good lawyer, a lot of money, and an understanding boss.

        Share
    2. Damond Horner Monday, October 5, 2009

      Health Care is important, that’s why anyone with a brain is trying to stop it from being ruined.

      Share
  40. I’m also in San Francisco and own a MiFi 2200. It recently replaced my Novatel USB727 because I often carry more than a single computing device that may benefit from accessing Verizon Wireless’ EV-DO network – including my iPhone.

    I pay $60/mo for that convenience.

    My answer to your question is: I’ll decline!

    If the guy you ran into at SFO wants such convenience, I suggest that he take out his wallet and get in touch with Verizon Wireless.

    Perhaps that’s why the device was named MiFi and not FreeloaderFi.

    Share
  41. it would really come down to that 5gb cap.. it gets really expensive really fast after that.

    Share
  42. You did right, it was wrong for a stranger to put you in that position, except in an emergency. Neighbors, on the other hand are not strangers, and mine saved my life when our phone was cut off. I asked him if we could use their wifi and he gave me the long secure key on my thumbdrive. But I’d do the same for him, obviously.

    Security and cost are both a concern. I wouldn’t ask to use someone’s cellphone, either except under some extenuating circumstances of urgency.

    Share
  43. So the stranger downloads songs and then RIAA goes after you, how will you prove your innocence? Will RIAA agree that you are?

    Share
  44. Next time say yes “You can share for $50, remember to issue a tax receipt!

    Share
  45. I agree that if he knew what it was, he also knew there is a cap on it, and shouldn’t have asked. Here’s a better neighbor analogy. They just moved in, and would like to run a telephone line from your box to use for long distance calls.

    Share
  46. Habib Ullah Khan Saturday, July 25, 2009

    Ah how far we have come from Whitman’s vision:

    “Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?”

    Share
  47. You do not need to feel guilty for saying no.

    My favorite “guilt” story goes back to another airport far far away many moon ago

    On a non-stop flight from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia to New York in the mid-80s. I had booked weeks in advance a bulkhead seat (in economy) with extra leg space for that 14 hour non-stop. As we all settled into our seats the guy behind me tapped my shoulder and said he had just had surgery – could I swap with him? He was in middle seat, no less. I politely said no, and felt like a heel for the next hour.

    As we got to cruising altitude, I felt better. Why? Because the SOB got up and walked around with no obvious discomfort. I would have kicked his seat every time he nodded off if I had swapped and then discovered I had been had :)

    Share
  48. In the new Wired article “How to Behave: New Rules for Highly Evolved Humans” they suggest leaving your WiFi open:

    http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/magazine/17-08/by_open_wifi

    Share
  49. why not keep the mifi in your purse or laptop bag? it doesn’t need to be on display for it to work and you can keep your connection a bit more of a secret. people will just assume you’re working offline.

    Share
  50. I would have shared if I had the time. The device is capable, wi-fi is invisible and “unlimited.” It costs me nothing I wouldn’t have paid for already, the guy sounded friendly, and I would’ve come out the hero. What’s wrong with that? I’d call it my good deed for the day and wouldn’t look back.

    Although, it probably would’ve taken me one or two times saying “no” to learn my lesson.

    Share
  51. I’m sorry, but you did good. I am one of those people who shared my wifi with a neighbor and then got burned. The neighbor was consantly downloading movies and porn off of pirate bay. When I would try to use the internet connection I was paying for, it was slow and unreliable.

    Sorry, i guess I’m just selfish.

    Share
  52. Okay, I guess it really depends on where you live, how organized you are, whether it’s an emergency (wireless/network access or cellphone or even a pen/pencil in a line/que in a store/gov related office), but my take is “Look, you knew you were going to be coming to this place at this time. You know how to use the object/service you’re now asking me to share with you. Your asking me, because it’s now convient for you, and probably inconvient for me to do so since I planned ahead and prepared, is rather offensive. Please think about this, plan ahead next time (because we both know you’re going to do this again if you think you can get away with it) and learn that you have to be responsible for your life. Now shoo. Go away. Any guilt you think I should feel is a reflection of how immature you are.”
    Really.
    Think about this.
    Why should this even be coming up???

    Share
  53. I think it was rude of the person to ask to use your equipment, if he needs to check his email that badly then he should invest and get his own service. Also (and I’ve learned this the hard way) letting someone connect through your network can set yourself up to get a virus, and files copied. People need to be more self-reliant and take care of themselves, not depend on others to “lend” them their service.

    Share
  54. Well, for me it depends. It’s very subjective for me to share my JoikuSpot Premium (It an app that turns your phone’s internet into wi fi and multiple devices can connect, the advantage is, it turns your phone into a wi fi so no need to carry an extra device). If I know the person, I would not mind. If I don’t know the person then it depends, if his need seems genuine, I would not mind sharing. Of course, it’s in my hands to turn the app anytime off and move on. So that’s fine. The only thing is, security. If he does something nasty like sending a threat letter to the President of US (;)), then I would be crucified and not him.
    It’s subjective and frankly speaking, did not even need a debate.

    Share
  55. Your gut reaction was right. You got up and walked away because you didn’t want him to think that you are a complete jerk. In fact, you are a jerk. Maybe not a complete jerk, but refusing to share is a jerk thing to do.

    You’re worried about your 5GB cap? All you have to do is mention your concern, and any reasonable person would keep his session brief and limit his online video streaming. By assuming that he was going to overstay his welcome, you are the one making the world the tiniest bit less friendly.

    Share
  56. The security risks aren’t the issue. The issue is that you didn’t feel comfortable, and that’s totally okay. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing, then don’t. But I would say as much, “I’m sorry I just don’t feel comfortable sharing my connection.” Nothing jerky about that.

    It’s certainly not rude for someone in need to ask for help. What if the guy was in danger of losing his job if he didn’t send something off ASAP? It doesn’t make you suddenly responsible. I mean it’s not your fault he couldn’t fix it himself. However,maybe you are able to help someone, and maybe you do care, and even then there’s still the comfort issue.

    However, next time, you might just try asking back:

    Well, maybe, what do you need it for? or how long will you be on? or why do you need it so badly? I mean if the guy just wants to email his wife to ask what’s for dinner, then it’d be a lot easier for me to say, “You know, I’d rather not, and besides nothing like coming home to good surprise, right? Have a nice flight. : ) “

    Share
  57. Wow, I can’t believe the attitudes on this page. I completely disagree with the author and most of the comments. Unless I was running short on my 5Gigs per month, I certainly would share. I happen to have an EVDO card myself and use it when traveling, but I certainly know what it is like to be on the road and be stuck needing to check email. I think many of the comments on this page are rude/selfish, and unless I had a good reason I think it was rude to refuse. As for concerns about what he was doing, I would just ask him not to download music or movies.

    Share
  58. How and since when is it ever rude to ask? If you think it was rude for the person to have just asked then F U. I would rather know the person who asks, then the person who thinks it is rude to ask.
    And you could have very easily asked them back what they needed to look up, gauged their answer and decided to say yes or no. It wasn’t rude to say no…though the packing up and leaving bit is slightly off putting. I honestly feel like I have very little right to lock down the air waves around me and would have let them. Heck, my wifi is even called “open and free.” and the chance that a person asking is actually going to use it for some illegal activity is pretty slim….and your uncle is more likely a pedophile than some stranger asking for your myfi in need of a porn fix.
    oh well….most of these comments just show what is wrong with everyone, you are paranoid jerks or just jerks.

    Share
  59. Why would you even set up a WiFi connection somewhere if you were not willing to share it? That is what cables are for.

    Share
    1. Because the MiFi only connects to your computer/other device via WiFi. Look at the name for Heaven’s sake.

      Share
  60. You were clearly within your right. Whether you were right to do it or not is entirely subjective. But it is true that you would be taking a small risk that they would do something illegal AND that you would be caught. It’s not unreasonable to be careful. On the other hand, it doesn’t take a liberal pinko to realize that if we trust each other, social interactions will be much smoother which is good for life in general, but also economic cooperation.

    I however would argue that there is nothing rude in asking someone else if you can use their Internet connection. I go down the street asking my neighbors asking for an egg or a cup of sugar when I run out and need it. Nothing wrong with recognizing the fact that we are humans and that we depend on each other and can help each other out.

    To conclude, I think I would have asked them what they needed it for and to please not do anything illegal on my connection before allowing them. Most people can actually be trusted as long as you bother to ask.

    Share
  61. Yeah, I think you were in the right here. I think a warning/request that nothing illegal is done on your connection, plus maybe a $5 donation would have made everyone happy, though. If possible, (maybe) you could have sat next to him to make sure there was nothing going on that you disapproved of.

    The MiFi and it’s service plans are fairly expensive, though. And considering the fellow travel knew what the MiFi was, he was probably aware of its expense as well.

    For anyone looking to get a MiFi, check out http://buymifi.com for the latest deals on the MiFi 2200 or MiFi 2352. There are also deals posted for MiFi related accessories.

    Share
  62. Stacey,

    I believe you already knew the answer to your question when you wrote this post, probably in the back of your head. Otherwise you would never go through the trouble. You should have been a nice person and shared if you honestly believed the person’s request.

    Share
  63. So, I’m confused — the SF airport doesn’t have publicly accessible wifi? Oh, you have to pay for it? Well, why pay when you can mooch off a stranger’s own personal device? Did he not have a plan for this ahead of time? If you know that you’re going to need to use wifi when you’re at the airport, you make plans beforehand, I would think. Or, you know, buy a phone.

    The reason why it’s rude to ask is that you’re putting someone on the spot, forcing them to make a complicated split-second decision they wouldn’t have to otherwise, and increasing their stress and angst. To sum up — asking about the device, how it works, and if you like it, is not rude. Knowing there’s a monthly bandwidth cap and still asking to use it so you don’t have to pay for wifi? Mind-blowingly rude.

    Having said that, I would have perplexedly let him use it, because I’m just that nice. Call me an enabler.

    Share
  64. Stacy,
    I would have shared my MiFi with the fellow traveler. You could have politely told him about the 5 GB limit and not come off sounding like a jerk. He probably just needed to check his email and perhaps send an important one. Next time, share your connection.

    Share
  65. In some Euro Countries, if you leave your pack cigarettes on the table, it is an open invitation to others that you’re willing to share. If you don’t want to share, you keep your pack in your pocket. Some people may think, that by leaving your device out, like that, that you are willing to share your hook up. Next time, just keep it in your pocket or someplace.

    Share
  66. Damond Horner Monday, October 5, 2009

    It’s a hard choice to make on the spot. I’m lucky in a way, I upgraded my unlimited, Sprint account… So I don’t have a cap.

    I’m not sure he’s rude in this situation, some people would have just tried to get on line, hoping it’s not a secured connection. At the very least he asked.

    Share
  67. Dr. Yusuf Al-Kindi Wednesday, October 7, 2009

    It was not exactly rude of that STRANGER< but was a bit pushy. If he had askedyou about the device, and had a conversation first, and tried to establish some rapport with you, then maybe it would not have been so pushy, but, considering that youpay if you go over a data limit and that for him to log on, would require yoru sharing a password you were NOT cheap for telling him NO at his request. You know, it WAS sort of rude of him. It was akin to asking if he could check his webmail on yoru laptop for a moment. He was a stranger. You would not share yoru donuts with him if you had a bagful and someone just walked up and asked if he could have some.

    Share
  68. That is overly presumptuous of a stranger to demand to use it. He can request but the owner doesn’t have to feel bad at all. Its entirely your prerogative. Only if he says its an emergency and even then I would look over his shoulders to see if it is so.
    I would feel stupid if someone used it and then do illegal stuff . I will end up being the dumbass.
    If a stranger wants to piggyback , ask nicely but be prepared to be refused.

    Share
  69. When someone asks to piggyback, answer them “Sure, if you know the password” and leave it at that…

    If you are not one to be a smartass, you could simply tell them that password protection was setup by corp. IT dept, and you don’t know the p/w.

    Share
  70. WTF¿?

    Share
  71. [...] primarily seen as a convenient way to get online using a variety of devices or as a way to share a connection with friends and colleagues, but this credit-card sized router is supposed to also tie into applications such as online [...]

    Share
  72. A late thought … the Verizon Terms and Conditions say it is for “individual use”.
    http://b2b.vzw.com/broadband/bba_terms.html

    Share
  73. Politely state you have to pay a premium of 60 dollars. Now ask him to help pay for your service but first ask for proof of who he is i.e (give me your i.d/passport and other details with a photo). If later you become worried about sites your being claimed to have viewed, your argument is…. The gentleman’s details. And if he’s abused your politeness next time you see him, kick him in the bollocks! lol

    Share
  74. It was impolite for him to ask. If he knew what it was then he should have know it has a monthly usage cap that he would be depleted at your expense.

    I have on socks, ….. if you want socks, get your own.
    I have on shoes, …. no you may not wear them to the market.
    No matter the item or service, there are those who think they should be able to ‘cash-in’ on other’s capital outlay.

    Share
  75. [...] with work-life balance, and how technology has affected me and my loved ones. You guys have given me advice and deepened my knowledge on all of these topics while still welcoming my [...]

    Share
  76. of course not! first your spending 60 a month your money and (this is news to me) you only get 5gb of downloads on what ever you do on the web? that may be alot but if im spending 60 dollars id make him pay for my wifi time lol

    Share
  77. hmmm comming from a person who has set up many a wifi hotspot and all that. I would have said no. because of these few reasons.
    1: you dont know the person
    2: you dont know what they are capable of.
    and finally…
    3: you dont know how much of a piggyback he is going to take.

    for the first reason. you really dont know them. its for your own personal use and your paying 60 bucks a month for it. might as well have said yes but you want payment for him taking those precious bits away from you.

    for reason 2.
    it isnt that hard to remember that if he is given the mifi password he then has the ability to go into the settings of the mifi browser page and configure it for his own personal settings. Ive done it before with a hotspot that my moms neighbor was setting up. i was able to get into their system and give them a good scare enough to put up more security for it in the future. Its like having a sandbox all to yourself and when other kids come to play you might end up regretting it.

    and for 3
    honestly. those bits and bites tend to stack up on you without you noticing. a minute on a site here a few downloads there and youve got yourself half of a gig gone and dont know where it went and it isnt going to you for your personal use. its going to someone else who just took a big chunk out of your months supply.

    remember that its a 5gb ration they are letting you have. that 5 gigs can go very fast.

    i can recall the days when i would surf the interwebs and see a file worth a hundred mb and say to myself. wow thats a big file.

    Share
  78. [...] Need a Connection? Sorry, This Is MyFi [...]

    Share
  79. [...] AT&T’s troubled cellular network, and high-powered users might be swayed by the fact that the MiFi can power up to five gadgets simultaneously. But the MiFi is packaged with a 5GB data plan that [...]

    Share
  80. Well, I would share…BUT I would make sure that its logged and I would let the person know that beforehand. Then he/she could decide if they still liked to ‘borrow’ the connection.

    Again, of course Im pretty good at evaluating people if they can be trusted or not. So of course if someone looks or sounds like one of a less reputable ‘species’…I would say NO.

    So its something I would decide from case to case. Logging is a must though…

    Share
  81. I am surprised that nobody (including Bruce SCHNEIER in his article, mentioned above) seems to have mentioned actually being burned by sharing. I had a naive housemate with whom i shared my network. When her computer got a worm, which was using all the bandwidth in the house, 24/7, spreading virus-laden emails to the world, she got mad at me for telling her to clean up her machine! My ISP shut us down, which meant MY business was off-the-air!

    No, it wasn’t rude to ask, and no, it wasn’t rude to turn him down. I have bought food for strangers on the street. A computer wielding stranger at an airport is not in need of anyone’s charity.

    ps Ignoring the assumptions, i also enjoyed the humour in the posting with double entendres.

    Share
  82. You absolutely did the right thing – I think the guy had a lot of nerve asking to piggyback on your network. You don’t know who people really are anywhere so I would have done exactly what you did. Bravo for you for saying no.

    Share
  83. The potential piggybacker had every right to ask and you had every right to say either yes or no. No biggie.

    Share
  84. As we say in Philly, ya done good.
    Chances are he wasn’t a hacker or he’d be using it already.
    But you still did good.

    Share
  85. With all due respect.
    Granted all the security, bandwith, other issues that MAY crop up… But, is it that hard to help another fella?

    It would take just a couple of minutes to chat with the guy to confirm his needs and reasons to piggyback on your mifi.

    If you are that concerned.. ask him to pay and watch him over his shoulder if you must.

    Sorry to disagree. Just believe that no good deeds are unrewarded. Thank you.

    Share
  86. I would of declined as well. Personally I’m not interested in sharing my access passwords with a stranger even if the odds say we’ll never pass within 30 ft of each other again.
    I probably would of “white lied” an explanation such as “I’m sorry this is a business account and they monitor my use.”

    Share
  87. It’s a simple equation:

    If you didn’t pay for it, it’s not yours.
    If you share with others that don’t pay it drives the cost up for everyone else.

    Share
    1. Letting other’s especially a stranger leech your wifi is very risky. Your putting yourself at risk of man in the middle attacks that allow the other user to monitor your internet usage and harvest your passwords and even bank details. The assumption that it’s ok because you’ll probably never see them again is erroneous too if they get your IP address you could be on the other side of the planet and they can still attack your machine. Give any half decent hacker enough time and access and you will get OWNED!

      Share
  88. Hmm. Y’see all those terrified and pointlessly aggressive “no way, you moron!” type responses. They’re the reason you shouldn’t share. Y’see the ones who feel it’s a judgment call and that by and large your fellow man ain’t so bad? They’re the reason it could well be OK to share.

    I’d share, if I trusted the other person. If you believe everyone’s out to get you, and/or you’re a lousy judge of character, then you probably shouldn’t, for all the technical reasons outlined.

    On the other side of the coin, those of you who do “borrow” open WiFi, or use free internet proxies, presumably you’re all aware that this thing cuts two ways – the person providing these free services could, of course, be logging everything you do.

    Share
  89. you did the right thing Stacey. one should never allow strangers to access his/her wifi (or myfi :P). That is a potential security risk. If i were asked to share my mifi, i would tell that person to buzz off. Never share your personal network with any stranger.

    Share
  90. I am with you on this one. I agree that there are risks and I am not inclined to share something that would give a stranger usernames and passwords to connect. It was almost rude for that person to ask.

    Share
  91. Agree with Deb. Padlock Means No. Being in a busy place full of strangers I would expect more people to try hack it than actually ask for it. I like the idea of sharing with friendly colleagues, but exactly how much do you trust them? Once you give them your password, would you feel comfortable with them being able to use it again, behind your back, so to speak? Thought not ;-)

    Share
  92. You pay for it, you decide who can use it. I don’t take mine out of my pocket to avoid this very situation.

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post