Senate Considers P2P Security Bill

Legislation would require software developers to tell users when files are being shared via peer-to-peer networks.
The Senate is considering a bill that would require software developers to inform people when their files are made available to others via peer-to-peer networks.

Among other things, the P2P Cyber Protection and Informed User Act, introduced Wednesday by Sens. Amy Klobuchar and John Thune, would require people sharing software to alert users when they encounter a P2P program, according to a press statement from Sen. Klobuchar.

It also would make it unlawful to prevent an authorized PC user from blocking the installation of a P2P file-sharing program, or disabling or removing P2P programs.

Further, if the bill is passed, it also would give authority to enforce the act to the Federal Trade Commission.

Indeed, it was the FTC that spurred such legislation. Earlier this week, the FTC sent letters to almost 100 organizations letting them know that personal information, including sensitive data about customers and employees, is available to users of P2P networks and could be used for nefarious purposes.

The security of P2P files has been a concern for some time, though to date no legislation has been put in place to protect information that might be leaked via these connections.

That all may change soon if the Senate bill is approved. The House in December already has passed a similar bill, H.R. 1319.

Congress also is considering a bill that would require the Office of Management and Budget to prohibit the use of P2P software like BitTorrent or Limewire on government computers and networks. It also would set policies on home use by federal employees who telework or remotely access government networks.

That bill -- the Secure Federal File Sharing Act, introduced by Rep. Edolphus Towns last November -- was the result of a private ethics-investigation document being leaked on a file-sharing network.

The P2P Cyber Protection and Informed User Act has public support from advocacy groups such as Stop Child Predators and industry groups such as the Recording Industry Association of America. Attorneys general in 41 states also back the bill.

However, users and proponents of P2P services such as LimeWire and BitTorrent -- as well as emerging companies that use P2P as their business model -- will likely not be as pleased with legislation.

Some fear it could stifle the use of P2P, which already suffers from a stigma because people use it to download copyrighted material -- such as films and music -- without the consent of copyright owners.