A Revealing P2P App
What would you think of millions of people having the ability to download the pictures and videos on your smartphone, or copy documents from your tablet computer, without your even realizing it?
If that sounds like a problem, you might want to take a look at the FTC’s just-announced settlement with a peer-to-peer (or P2P) file-sharing software developer. The company, Frostwire, offers free P2P file-sharing applications for Android devices and desktop and laptop computers.
P2P software lets you download files from — and share files with — other people with the same software. That includes photos, videos, documents, and music.
In the case of Frostwire, the FTC alleges, its Android file-sharing software was likely to cause people to share personal files stored on their phones or tablets unintentionally.
The FrostWire for Android default settings — unlike those of popular desktop file-sharing applications — were set to automatically share photos, videos, and other files already stored on the device once a user clicked through the installation process. The default settings would also publicly share new files in “shared” categories. These could have included, for instance, personal documents users moved to a tablet, and new photos or videos taken with a smartphone.
The FTC also charged that people who installed some versions of the popular FrostWire desktop application on their desktops or laptops were misled into believing that files they downloaded from the P2P network wouldn’t be shared with other users of the network, when they were being shared.
P2P filing sharing generally comes with certain risks. People sometimes mistakenly download malware, or let strangers access their personal files. Files may be copyright protected and sharing them might make users liable for infringement. But developers need to give users the information and control they need to be able to act responsibly. There also are things you can do to minimize your risk when it comes to P2P sharing.