Privacy Risks of File-Sharing Over Peer to Peer Networks

One of the biggest risks of peer to peer network file sharing is the privacy risks it imposes. Peer-to-peer file-sharing systems are powerful tools for sharing information with millions of other people around the world, but the more people you share with, the higher the risk of invasion of privacy. If you install file sharing network tools, you should be aware of the serious privacy risks that might come from using them.

If you use the Internet you are sure to run risks, sharing files over peer to peer networks is no exception. However, when you use these networks, you run a bigger risk of sharing private or personal information on accident, or maybe someone steals it. For example, you might have a website where you put pictures up of you and your family so extended family can see them. The problem is, you might put up a picture that inadvertently places information you do not wish to share, such as your address on a building in the background, etc. Or, you might send a personal email to your whole mailing address on mistake. Sometimes you might be replying to a friend’s email, and accidentally hit “reply all” while will send it to anyone they sent their message to. So, you can see you can inadvertently risk your privacy by your own actions.

The risks mentioned above are common for any internet use. However, with file sharing over peer to peer networks, several factors heighten privacy concerns. Let’s take a look at the factors that heighten the risks for peer-to-peer networks:

The number of users. Peer to peer networks are used by millions of consumers, typically with far less expertise than the average web publisher. This means ignorance feeding predators desire to use peer to peer networks for stealing identities etc.

The next reason for heightened privacy concerns is their powerful search capabilities can make files more widely accessible than other publishing tools. Once again being an attraction for predators and those looking to exploit you.

Next, the sharing activities of these systems can be less transparent to users, especially for those unfamiliar with their workings.

The privacy issues become even worse because peer-to-peer systems make it possible, often too easy, for people to share personal files. And, research has shown that some file-sharing users are sharing highly sensitive personal documents on major peer-to-peer networks. These could be things like tax returns, check registers, etc. Even if they are sharing with someone they know, their files could be viewed by others. This means their personal information could be viewed by millions of users around the world. So how is this possible? Well, many file sharing systems come with a default that says files in shared directories can be viewed by others. So, unless you take steps to keep your file from being viewed, others can see it.

Another problem is that some systems download your whole hard drive if you share anything. And with the move to digital, diaries, personal letters, email, and financial records are commonly found on personal computers. This means that if you accidentally shared your whole hard drive, you could be sharing your personal information inadvertently. These files are often used to commit fraud, invade your privacy, steal your identity, etc.

Also, sometimes when you use file sharing on peer to peer networks, spyware and malware get downloaded onto your computer. This can mean information is shared without your consent, to a third party.

So, just be careful and know that there are privacy risks of file sharing over peer to peer networks.

Cite This Page

Feldman, Barbara. "Privacy Risks of File-Sharing Over Peer to Peer Networks." Surfnetkids. Feldman Publishing. 19 Jan. 2008. Web. 30 Jul. 2015. < >.

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By . Originally published January 19, 2008. Last modified January 19, 2008.

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