HR 1319 makes it illegal to cause a person to make files available on their PC without first obtaining their permission and clearly notifying them which files will be made available.
The House of Representatives has formally passed the Informed P2P User Act(H.R. 1319) which aims to protect PC users from the inadvertent sharing of sensitive information when using P2P software.
“Too many consumers don’t realize that by using P2P software, they could be exposing all of their personal files – from family photos to bank account information – to complete strangers on their network,” said Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack (CA-45), bill’s sponsor. “This problem has persisted far too long, and industry has failed to effectively respond in a way that will keep Americans safe online. This legislation takes a common sense – and needed – approach that will ensure that users are aware of what personal files are at risk when they use P2P file sharing programs.”
First taken up by the House Energy & Commerce Committee back in September, the bill makes it illegal for somebody to cause the owner of another PC to make their files available via a file-sharing program without their explicit permission.
Prior to installation the program must:
- Provide clear and conspicuous notice that such program allows files on the protected computer to be available for searching and copying by another computer; and
- Obtain the informed consent to the installation of such program from an owner or authorized user of the protected computer; and
- Provide clear and conspicuous notice of which files are to be made available to another computer; and
- Obtain the informed consent from an owner or authorized user of the protected computer for such files to be made available.
It’s pretty straightforward, but occurs rather late in the file-sharing game. Programs with these types of “shared folders,” like Limewire for example, have already introduced updated versions that do not share files by default.
“With so many criminals, including child pornographers and identity thieves, stalking the internet, it is all the more essential that Americans know when their personal information is at risk and how to protect themselves and their families online,” adds Rep Bono. “I am pleased that my colleagues in the House of Representatives recognize the importance of this issue and am hopeful that the Senate will act swiftly in passing this legislation as well.”
The real problem in all of this is inexperienced PC users for which no legislation is possible. Informing a user they’ll be sharing a folder doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll heed the warning, and considering teens are some of the biggest users of P2P software it’s not likely they’ll be worried about sharing too much of the data on the family PC.
Rep Mack also hopes it “addresses the inherent privacy risks associated with P2P programs that have caused major security breaches involving…national security details.”
I don’t think a simple warning on a file-sharing program will solve our P2P-related national security breaches do you? Only legislation like that introduced by Representative Edolphus “Ed” Towns (D-NY), the Secure Federal File Sharing Act, will properly address that problem by making it outright illegal for government employees and contractors to download, install, or use file-sharing software without official approval.
Now that’s how you solve national security breaches.
Violations of the Informed P2P User Act would fall under the purview of the Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices and be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission.