File-Sharing: A National Security Threat?
The makers of peer-to-peer file sharing software such as Limewire are no strangers to controversy. Hollywood has been battling file-sharing over the Internet for years as a way to curb music and video piracy. But now, Congress is back in the debate, alleging that P2P software can pose a "national security threat."
It appears that sensitive or classified documents - military orders, terrorist threat assessments, accounting documents, tax returns, medical records and more - could fall into the wrong hands if government employees who install file-sharing software on their computers aren't careful about which files and folders they share. According to a CNET report, members of the Government Reform Committee told Limewire chairman Mark Gorton at a hearing on Tuesday that his company also might be exposed to legal liability if someone's income tax returns ended up on the Internet for anyone to see because the file sharing software put them out there.
Here's a few questions to consider: Why are government employees installing file-sharing software on government-issued computers where these files are stored? Isn't that against government policy and regulation? (I'm not allowed to install P2P software on my work computer. Are you?) If these are their own personal computers, then why would sensitive or classified information be on them in the first place? Better yet, why is sensitive or classified information being stored locally on any computer that could leave the confines of a secured office? (Have we learned nothing from the data breaches that stem from laptop thefts?)
In a posting this morning, Mike Masnick, a contributing blogger for TechDirt, was a bit more harsh. He wonders why file sharing system providers should take the blame for the, um, stupidity of government employees - and politicians. He singles out Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), who reportedly blasted Gorton during the hearing and told him, "you seem to lack imagination about how your product can be deliberately misused by evildoers against this country."
Masnick's response: "That's laughably wrong. The misuse isn't by so-called 'evildoers.' It's by gov't employees who are disobeying policy and stupidly revealing confidential documents by misusing the software... This is yet another case where politicians want to regulate a technology they don't understand."
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