A while back, I got an iPad 2, my first tablet PC. This led to my first attempts to use public Wi-Fi hotspots. I went to a McDonald's restaurant and linked to its Wi-Fi connection. While scanning for the McDonald's network, I noticed some other networks and one of them was not locked. I assume it was from an adjacent building housing several small businesses. I wondered if I could use/join that network just as easily as I could join the McDonald's network (i.e., with no password required). I didn't try to connect to it.
But it got me to wondering: assume I was out in public and needed to get online but didn't know of any public Wi-Fi hotspots like McDonald's. Assume I have the iPad check for local networks and it shows one that's not locked. Could I connect to that just by clicking on it?
Which got me to further wondering: if I connected to that unlocked network (1) would the network owner even know, unless they were actively monitoring their network and (2) if they saw I was connected, would they have any way to track my identity?
(1) I realize that a personal/business network is something private, that the network owner probably wouldn't want the general public piggybacking on (just like I don't want people piggybacking on the wireless network at my house). I don't know the legal implications, but I'm just talking a general principle.
(2) I'm not up to something bad. I'm just curious re: whether unlocked Wi-Fi connections are accessible by simply clicking "Join the network" and if I could be identified. I figured that if I was in a bind for a network connection, this might be a "backup plan" if it's all that was available.
Thanks for helping me learn about this aspect of Wi-Fi use.