Politicians Blame P2P Software For Not Stopping Gov't Employee Stupidity

from the no,-seriously dept

Would you elect as your Congressional representative someone who blamed automakers because a bad driver crashed a car through his or her own negligence? Would you elect as your Congressional representative someone who claimed that email was a threat to national security because it can (and has) been used by spies to transmit confidential data? Probably not. Why? Because that's clearly misplaced blame. However, it appears that we have elected Congressional representatives who have made an almost identical argument and stick by it when it's pointed out how ridiculous it is. A bunch of our representatives are pushing for laws against file sharing networks claiming that file sharing is a national security threat. Why? Because some idiot government employees, against gov't regulations and policy, installed file sharing networks on their computers and then screwed up the installation to make confidential files available via P2P. Yes. Because government employees are stupid and disobeying rules, file sharing system providers must be punished. This is based on an equally poorly argued USPTO report from a few months ago that incorrectly blamed P2P networks for gov't employees stupidity.

In the meantime, while this magical law is being written, (and we can't wait to see the law that will somehow punish P2P software providers in a way that prevents gov't employee stupidity), many Congresscritters teamed up to scold the head of file sharing software firm Limewire. Rep. Jim Cooper accused Limewire's CEO of being naive (amusing, since Cooper doesn't appear to understand what he's talking about) and claiming that Limewire provided the "skeleton keys" to accessing material that harms national security. If that's true, then it's equally true that any internet provider is providing similar skeleton keys. And any search engine. Plus any computer maker. Or any telephone maker or service provider. They're all about as equally guilty as any P2P provider. Yet why isn't Cooper harassing any of their executives? Cooper goes on to demonstrate his complete ignorance of what's going on by saying: "you seem to lack imagination about how your product can be deliberately misused by evildoers against this country." 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. Rep. Darrell Issa then warned Limewire that it may find itself legally liable if someone were stupid enough to share their tax returns via Limewire. Does this mean if I were so stupid to post my tax returns to Blogspot that I could sue Google? Technically, that's no different than Issa's argument. This is yet another case where politicians want to regulate a technology they don't understand.

Filed Under: congress, file sharing, national security, p2p

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  1. identicon
    Paula Skokowski, 27 Jul 2007 @ 3:38pm

    Sharing Confidential Files - Smart people doing du

    Smart people doing dumb things with confidential files is not limited to government employees; it is also prevalent in the corporate world. In the case of the corporate world, the downside may not be a potential national security breach but it can have very serious legal ramifications, not to mention a less than flattering mention in the Washington Post.

    Should Limeware be outlawed for offering free file sharing? The question really is why someone in their right mind is even tempted to share confidential information in this manner. Does their organization offer an easy-to-use, secure means for the transfer of large files? Smart people will find a way to get the job done; unfortunately security is often of secondary concern when evaluating their options. Government and corporate employees are no different in this regard. The difficulty of sending large files over the Internet has frustrated a lot of people in the past, and still does today.

    In many organizations email attachments greater than 10MB are typically blocked. Sounds like a good IT move to keep control of email storage demands, and not bog down email performance with large file delivery. The only problem is that many files used everyday in business, and the government, are larger than 10MB.

    What options do people have who need to send a large file? If an IT organization isn't providing a secure large file transfer capability that is readily accessible to business (and government) users, then people will find their own way. Historically, the choice of software tools for secure large file transfer have not been very user friendly, or easily accessible. No wonder P2P looks tempting. However times are a-changing. Accellion is a secure file transfer capability in use by government, and corporate users, that focuses on ensuring file security while at the same time letting people get their jobs done.

    Rather than outlaw P2P software, how about ensuring government (and corporate) employees have the right tool to share files securely? Accellion.

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