Bill would restrict P2P use on US government networks

House bill is in response to embarrassing data leaks

House lawmakers introduced a bill that would restrict the use of peer-to-peer technology on government networks in response to several embarrassing data leaks.

The Secure Federal File Sharing Act would bar government employees and contractors from downloading, installing, or using file-sharing software on federal computers and those used by contractors for federal work, unless the use has been specifically approved.

The bill, introduced Tuesday by U.S. Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee, would also require the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to issue guidance on P2P use and to prohibit personal use of P2P software on government networks.

The proposed legislation has been in the works for several weeks and is the result of heightened concerns in Congress about data leaks involving government and military data on file-sharing networks.

Several leaks this year have focused attention on the issue, often in sensational fashion.

In January, a vendor of P2P network monitoring services said it had found sensitive details about the president's Marine One helicopter in a computer in Iran that were leaked via a P2P network.

In July, the same company discovered documents describing safe house locations for the First Family , and presidential motorcade routes on a file-sharing network. Last month, a confidential document listing dozens of lawmakers under investigation for conduct violations was found on a P2P network.

In all the cases, the documents were inadvertently leaked from computers on which P2P software had been improperly installed. The bill seeks to address the problem by making it illegal for government workers to use P2P software in all but strictly approved cases.

Despite the intent, the proposed bill is likely to come as a disappointment for those opposed to such restrictions. There are many who believe that the problems associated with file-sharing software have more to do with the improper use of the technology rather than any inherent limitations in it.

Some groups, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), have said that a broad governmentwide restriction on P2P use would limit the government's ability to take advantage of potentially useful file-sharing tools such as BitTorrent. EFF has pointed to the use of such tools by video gaming companies and licensed music services as examples of how P2P tools can serve a useful purpose.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags USA governmentcopyrightlegalfile sharingP2P

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?