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    FTC Warns of Improper Release of Sensitive Consumer Data on P2P File-Sharing Networks

    The Federal Trade Commission has issued a warning about data privacy problems connected to peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, noting “when P2P file-sharing software is not configured properly, files not intended for sharing may be accessible to anyone on the P2P network.” The FTC also released a new guide, “Peer-to-Peer File Sharing: A Guide for Business,” to assist businesses and others with data-privacy safeguards and other security recommendations.

    The Federal Trade Commission has notified almost 100 organizations that personal information, including sensitive data about customers and/or employees, has been shared from the organizations’ computer networks and is available on peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing networks to any users of those networks, who could use it to commit identity theft or fraud. The agency also has opened non-public investigations of other companies whose customer or employee information has been exposed on P2P networks. […]

    “Unfortunately, companies and institutions of all sizes are vulnerable to serious P2P-related breaches, placing consumers’ sensitive information at risk. For example, we found health-related information, financial records, and drivers’ license and social security numbers–the kind of information that could lead to identity theft,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. […]

    The notices went to both private and public entities, including schools and local governments, and the entities contacted ranged in size from businesses with as few as eight employees to publicly held corporations employing tens of thousands. In the notification letters, the FTC urged the entities to review their security practices and, if appropriate, the practices of contractors and vendors, to ensure that they are reasonable, appropriate, and in compliance with the law. […]

    The FTC also recommended that the entities identify affected customers and employees and consider whether to notify them that their information is available on P2P networks. Many states and federal regulatory agencies have laws or guidelines about businesses’ notification responsibilities in these circumstances. […]

    The fact that a company received a letter does not mean that the company necessarily violated any law enforced by the Commission. Letters went to companies under FTC jurisdiction, as well as entities such as banks and public agencies over which the agency does not have jurisdiction.

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