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Congress concerned P2P promotes identity theft, calls for federal investigation

Same group of Democrats and Republicans who said filesharing can pose "national security" risks now want probe into other possible consequences of "inadvertent" file exposure.

Still worried that peer-to-peer filesharing networks like Lime Wire are causing users to "inadvertently" expose sensitive documents, posing potential security risks, members of Congress are now asking for a formal investigation into the phenomenon.

Congress wants the FTC (headquarters pictured here) to probe identity theft risks posed by peer-to-peer filesharing. Federal Trade Commission

The latest concern from the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, judging by a 7-page letter (click for PDF) dated Wednesday to Federal Trade Commission chairwoman Deborah Majoras, appears to be this: Peer-to-peer networks may make unsuspecting consumers vulnerable to identity theft.

The same group of politicians, led by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Tom Davis (R-Va.), suggested earlier this summer that peer-to-peer networks can pose a "national security" threat by allowing users to expose sensitive information unwittingly. (Some politicians, particularly those with entertainment industries in their districts, also took the opportunity once again to condemn unlawful transfer of copyrighted content via the networks.)

The committee members asked the FTC, the federal agency charged primarily with consumer protection, to outline any risks it believes are associated with peer-to-peer filesharing and whether it specifically considered the "impact" of peer-to-peer filesharing when it devised recommendations for fending off identity theft.

The letter closes by asking the federal regulators to reveal whether they feel they have sufficient enforcement powers to "address problems associated with inadvertent filesharing"--and if not, of course, what Congress could do to help.

Lime Wire and the peer-to-peer community have long defended their services, saying they're increasingly incorporating features designed to give users clear warning before they open up, say, their entire My Documents folder to the whole world.

There was no immediate word on how the FTC plans to respond.