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House Committee Sets Sights On LimeWire

Mike Musgrove

Update: LimeWire sent a statement on this matter, which has been added at the end of this posting.

While peer-to-peer file-sharing applications have gotten a lot of media attention for carrying pirated versions of the latest movies and albums, a House committee is showing a fresh round of concern over how applications like the popular LimeWire can be used to obtain bank records, health files and other sensitive information.

On Monday, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform fired off a round of letters to Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz requesting an account of what the the DOJ and FTC have done to curtail the illegal use of "P2P" and what the agencies have done to protect Americans from the "dangers associated with P2P networks."

The letters cite recent media accounts of how everything from tax filings to detailed blueprints of the presidential helicopter have made their way onto such file-trading services.

Two years ago, the House committee held hearings on the subject and put Mark Gorton, chairman of The Lime Group, onto the hot seat. (The Lime Group owns LimeWire, which is one of the most popular P2P services around.)

At the time, Gorton said that he had been unaware of the amount of classified data being circulated by LimeWire users and that he was willing to make significant changes to LimeWire to put the brakes on that sort of activity.

Committee chairman Edolphus Towns (D-NY), and ranking Republican Darrell E. Issa (R-Calif) evidently aren't satisfied that the LimeWire service has been changed. They also sent Gorton a letter asking for a report on what his company has done to eliminate illegal activities associated with the use of LimeWire.

"Nearly two years after your commitment to make significant changes in the software, LimeWire and other P2P providers have not taken adequate steps to address this critical problem," they wrote. The Committee has requested a report on the matter from the company, with a deadline of early next month.

LimeWire sends this response:

We at LimeWire understand that internet safety is paramount, and we strive to offer peer-to-peer's most secure technology. We've been diligent in working with our trade association (DCIA) and regulatory agency representatives to develop and implement the following to protect user against inadvertent file sharing: changes in default settings; file-sharing controls; shared folder configurations; user-error protections; and sensitive-file-type restrictions. Our newest version, LimeWire 5.0, by default, does not share sensitive file types such as spread sheets or documents. In fact, the software does not share any file or directory without explicit permission from the user.

By Mike Musgrove  |  April 21, 2009; 4:00 PM ET  | Category:  Mike Musgrove
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