Rep. Towns plans to fight file over-sharing

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor

“If you want something done right, do it yourself.” That’s the chestnut being faced by Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY) when it comes to inadvertent leaks of sensitive government documents.

In 2004, the White House Office of Management and Budget detailed specific actions agencies “must take to ensure the appropriate use of certain technologies used for file sharing across networks.” Two days ago, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform heard testimony on how extensively, and why, those actions haven’t worked.

Where the Executive branch has failed, the Legislative branch is now taking up the effort. Towns tells FederalNewsRadio, “We plan to introduce a bill that would ban this type of insecure open network and peer-to-peer software from all government and contractors’ computers and networks.”


Critics of the move point to “unwise uses of e-mail and Web browsers” as other, more widespread, sources of leaks.

Towns said insecure peer-to-peer software is a threat, “and we cannot ignore it. We must do something about it.”

Karen Evans, author of the 2004 OMB memo, as a guest host on the Federal Drive asked Towns, “you’re saying if I have peer-to-peer file sharing and it’s secure, I can continue to use it. You just don’t want people using insecure peer-to-peer file sharing, is that correct?” “That’s correct Karen,” replied Towns, who said he plans to contact the Federal Trade Commission and request an investigation into the trade practices of companies like LimeWire who have failed to develop and implement security features. “We just can’t sit back and allow Mr. Gorton (LimeWire Chairman) to come in two years from now and say the same things he said two years ago.”

Gorton told the committee that inadvertent sharing with his program is now nearly impossible, since “in order for a LimeWire user to change their default settings to enable document sharing, they have to click nine times and disregard three warnings.”

On the web:

FederalNewsRadio – P2P: Predator to Prey?

OMB – Personal Use Policies and “File Sharing” Technology by Karen S. Evans Administrator, IT and E-Gov, September 8, 2004

House Oversight – Chairman Set to Propose P2P Software Ban on Government, Contractor Computers and Networks (press release)

ComputerWorld – P2P ban plan for government gets mixed response

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