Preventing 'Invasive Self-Help Tactics'
"In no circumstances should it be legal to damage another person's computer or files based on allegations of wrong-doing, including copyright infringement."
Did this statement, per chance, refer to the dismal Hollywood-inspired Howard Berman P2P Piracy Prevention Act to give copyright holders [Hollywood] power to, "develop technological tools to protect themselves against P2P piracy," as Berman delicately put it to Congress?
And, "Privacy and safety protections for end users should be included in the broad DMCA Section 512(h) subpoena provision in order to require more due process - including notice to the user and other protections - before ISPs are compelled to reveal sensitive personal identity information."
Might this have been in reference to the RIAA's Verizon case?
Be that as it may, both views came in testimony given by Alan Davidson, associate director of the US Center for Democracy and Technology, to the US House Committee on Government Reform on the subject of Peer-to-Peer File Sharing Privacy And Security.
Davidson said using file-sharing software can raise, "serious privacy problems, often through mistakes by users that result in the sharing of very sensitive personal information." At the same time, p2p technology is, "largely user controlled, oftentimes beneficial, and decidedly hard to regulate." So, "A broad public education effort and better software practices are needed in order to inform people about the risks of file sharing while preserving the benefits of this valuable technology."
P2p apps such as Kazaa, Morpheus, or Grokster are among the most downloaded computer programs today, says Davidson, so, "People who install these powerful tools need to be aware of the potentially serious privacy and security risks that may come from their use or misuse."
Key concerns include:
* Inadvertent sharing of sensitive personal information - Peer-to-peer systems make it possible, and in some cases too easy, for people to share personal files. There is evidence on major peer-to-peer networks of users sharing very sensitive documents like their tax returns, inboxes, or check registers, certainly in most cases by mistake.
* Spyware and adware - Many file-sharing programs contain "spyware" that communicates information for advertising or other reasons, often without the user's knowledge. Whether in peer-to-peer or other software, consumers deserve notice and real choices about how their computers communicate with third parties.
* Security concerns - File trading introduces risks similar to those faced by Internet users generally. People should take care to only execute files whose source they trust, and they should safeguard their computers when online.
* Legal risks - File traders who violate copyright laws face obvious legal risks. At the same time, CDT is concerned that at least one provision of current law - the broad subpoena power granted any copyright holder under Section 512(h) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act - too easily allows the identity of a peer-to-peer participant or any Internet user to be unmasked wrongly or by mistake without their knowledge.
And these concerns are, "exacerbated by the growing use of file-sharing programs by millions of individuals and families, often with little or no training or experience," Davidson stated, going on, "With these risks come benefits. Peer-to-peer file sharing can be used for legitimate, non-infringing file distribution. Its underlying technology, not so different from peer-to-peer networks like the World Wide Web, is rapidly evolving and being adopted for many new uses. Regulating this technology without broader ramifications would be difficult, and could have many unintended consequences. How then do we address these real privacy and security concerns?"
CDT believes an active program of education and better software practices is needed to:
* Inform people about the risks in file sharing - The public, and particularly the families of file-trading minors, need greater awareness of the potential risks of file sharing. Educational efforts, like the Internet community GetNetWise website, are already including tips for safe peer-to-peer use that should be widely disseminated.
* Seek fair information practices in file-sharing software - Much more should be done to design peer-to-peer software with transparency and better control over shared files. Software producers should reject invasive spyware, adopt fair information practices, and must provide better notice when information is transmitted to third parties.
* Add privacy protections for DMCA subpoenas - Privacy and safety protections for end users should be included in the broad DMCA Section 512(h) subpoena provision in order to require more due process - including notice to the user and other protections- before ISPs are compelled to reveal sensitive personal identity information.
* Prevent invasive 'self-help' tactics - In no circumstances should it be legal to damage another person's computer or files based on allegations of wrong-doing, including copyright infringement.
"All of this should take place, "against the broader backdrop of action regarding Internet privacy generally, where the continued growth of privacy technologies and industry self-regulatory efforts along with baseline privacy legislation are necessary to ensure public trust and democratic values," Davidson added.
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