There's a scene in the film "Jesus of Montreal" where the Christ-like actor is being tempted by his smooth-talking satanical lawyer high-up in an office block overlooking the big city. It's an unsubtle, but exquisitely achieved re-telling of the temptation of Christ atop the pinnacle from the Gospels, and a million times better than Mel Gibson's effort.
I have a lesser story of temptation in high-places to tell. A friend of mine (let's call him Stan) was working high up in a tower block in a major UK city. He had no access to his client's network and absolutely needed to check his email.
He looked at the large list of wi-fi networks accessible to his laptop and noted that a few of them had the default names for the market-leader suppliers of wireless routers and absolutely no security. He experimented and found that he could access his email through two of them. Free, gratis and for nothing.
Stan knows that this behaviour is actually illegal - the Communications Act 2003 says a "person who (a) dishonestly obtains an electronic communications service, and (b) does so with intent to avoid payment of a charge applicable to the provision of that service, is guilty of an offence".
To protect Stan, I won't reveal whether he did actually cave in to this temptation in the office. Personally, I don't see what harm he would have been doing (if he did). For all he knew, the routers could have been left open on purpose as a charitable gesture so that unconnected people could have internet access. It's an unlikely reason, but I'm struggling to think of any sensible reason for someone in this day and age leaving a wi-fi router open if they didn't want all and sundry connecting.
I had a chat with Stanetta about this over a Starbucks coffee this morning. She agrees that it's a complicated issue but seemed to be saying that taking anything without permission is wrong, even if the something is unwanted "leftovers". She was especially sure of this when I mentioned it was against a law and people had been arrested for it.
Put that way, I find it hard to justify this kind of behaviour, but then I do sometimes let my speed creep over the speed limit, sometimes park where I shouldn't, have been known to download the odd bit of free music and have photocopied books without permission. Does this make me a bad person ?