In testimony before the House Government Reform Committee May 15, Center For Democracy and Technology Associate Director Alan Davidson raised concerns about the privacy and security of popular peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing networks:
- P2P programs such as Kazaa, Grokster, and Morpheus are among the most downloaded computer software today. P2P file-sharing tools have become notorious for fostering widescale piracy of copyrighted works — an activity that CDT condemns, and that carries significant legal penalties. These P2P tools can also raise potential privacy and security risks for those who share files.
CDT noted that carelessness in installing and using file-sharing software can result in the unintended sharing of users’ sensitive personal information. Key privacy and security concerns facing users include:
Inadvertent sharing of sensitive personal information;
Spyware that communicates without a user’s knowledge; and
Legal risks both for those who violate copyright law, and due to certain overly broad subpoena powers granted under law
P2P file sharing has many legitimate uses, is largely in the control of those who use it, and is decidedly hard to regulate. CDT called for a broad public education effort and improved software practices to better inform people about the potential privacy and security risks of file sharing while preserving the benefits of this technology. CDT also called for application of fair information practices to spyware and modifications to existing law including baseline privacy legislation for the Internet.
These are important concerns regarding P2P – I hate that spyware crap – and it’s enough to keep me away from the networks in general. That’s why I’m waiting for that secure, friendly, well-stocked digital music service that sells songs in the $.25 per song range – then I’ll jump.