- it’s easier to find pictures of puppies than freedom or democracy
It strikes me as an odd situation where you essentially are in the business of making and distributing skeleton keys, and Mr. Boback will help everybody buy new locks, and then, with your business plan of remaining one step ahead of the law, then you will probably make and distribute burglar tools, and then Mr. Boback or someone else will further improve the locks …
If I were you—and obviously I am not—I would feel more than a shade of guilt at this point for having made the laptop a dangerous weapon against the security of the United States. The 9/11 Commission reported that the central failure was a failure of imagination. Mr. Gorton, you, in particular, seem to lack imagination for how your company and its product can be deliberately misused by evildoers against this country.
This quote is taken from a Congressional hearing in 2007 on national security. The threat in question is not some biological weapon, or high tech explosive. No, the “dangerous weapon against the security of the United States” is peer-to-peer networks. Congressman Jim Cooper’s is addressing Mark Gorton, the CEO of Limewire, and expressing his concern for the national security threats caused by file sharing programs.
Testimony in the hearing details how classified documents had been accidentally shared on P2P networks by an expert on information system security. Other witnesses described the ease with which one can find mistakenly shared tax returns, medical records, or credit card numbers. The conclusion drawn is that those creating the programs are to blame, they are “distributing skeleton keys,” in an attempt to subvert our personal freedoms.
The Congressman argues that it is the responsibility of the software makers to regulate how their software is used. Limewire should anticipate its user’s incompetence, and protect them against themselves. Another congressman brings up the fact that Limewire is the only one of numerous file sharing programs (Imesh, BearShare, and Kazza for example) which did not, following the Grokster decision, implement mandatory copyright material filtering. Limewire instead implmented an opt-in filter, that gave users the ability to choose whether or not to use the feature.
More recently, this past spring, there have been more hearings on the national security risks due to P2P file sharing, as well as considerable lobbying by the RIAA for stricter regulation of these systems. However, it is difficult to come up with a solution that will monitor the system without limiting the ways in which it can be used. “With great power comes great responsibility.” The internet is a tool with unimagined powers, and I believe the American people can deal with a little responsibility.