Senators get involved in combating online file-sharing dangers

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn) and John Thune (R-SD), introduced legislation Wednesday to inform Internet users of the privacy and security risks associated with file-sharing software programs.

Their bill would require software developers to clearly inform users when their files are made available to other users over the Internet. Such software, known as peer-to-peer programs, are most commonly used to download music and movies and make up the largest portion of Internet traffic. Popular examples include BitTorrent and LimeWire.

But they can also lead to the inadvertent sharing of sensitive documents, the Federal Trade Commission found this week. The agency discovered widespread data breaches at 100 companies, where personal information of employees and customers—from drivers license numbers to social security numbers—were accidentally exposed while sharing other files.

Klobuchar says families run the “risk of unintentionally sharing all of their private files like tax returns, legal documents, medical records, and home movies when they are connected to peer-to-peer networks.”

“This bill will let people know—in a way that they can understand—that their personal files are being shared with complete strangers,” she added.

The bill would require file-sharing software to display a pop-up box alerting Internet users when they encounter such programs. The bill would also let consumers and employers block or disable file-sharing programs. Similar legislation passed the House in December.