10/6/2009
12:37 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary

U.S. Government Set To Clamp Down on P2P Networks

You've probably heard the horror stories around private and confidential files being exposed via peer-to-peer network sharing. Federal lawmakers are now stepping up their efforts to keep sensitive data from inadvertently leaking to the public.



You've probably heard the horror stories around private and confidential files being exposed via peer-to-peer network sharing. Federal lawmakers are now stepping up their efforts to keep sensitive data from inadvertently leaking to the public.Last week, a bill (Informed P2P User Act .pdf) that would make it illegal for P2P software to cause files to be inadvertently shared over a P2P network passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

How would it be possible to stop software from doing anything inadvertently? Why with notices, of course. The bill would force developers to make it clear to users what files and directories would be made available to others, and the user of the P2P software would have to agree to file sharing.

It's been my experience that when users install software, they very often just click everything that pops up in a dialogue window - without paying much attention. As a result, I think the impact of this bill, on inadvertent file sharing, will be negligible. Still, a warning label when installing this type of software can't hurt. There are plenty of consumers who probably have no idea what they're installing when they install P2P software. At least they will have been warned that they're likely making files on their system widely available.

But when it comes to government networks, and systems that connect to government networks, there's not many reasons - for most users - to have P2P installed. That's why I agree with chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Edolphus Towns, that this type of software should be banned from the vast majority of government and contractor computers and networks. Although, exceptions can be safely made when necessary. Though his inquiry as to whether "inadequate safeguards on file sharing software such as LimeWire constitute an unfair trade practice" strikes me as way off base.

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