Frostwire P2P app shared users photos without their knowledge

Open source bitTorrent client was sharing files on users' computers without permission
Kerry Butters

October 12, 2011

The developer of a peer-to-peer file sharing application have agreed to settle US Federal Trade Commission charges that their software contained permissions that might cause consumers to unwittingly share their phone content with others.

Frostwire LLC is the developer of two apps, Frostwire Desktop and Frostwire for Android that allows users to share files via torrents.

The open source bitTorrent client was formed when LimeWire devs decided to begin a new project that would “protect the developmental source code of LimeWire.”

That project was Frostwire and it has “evolved to replace LimeWire’s BitTorrent core for that of Vuze, the Azurus BitTorrent engine, and ultimately to remove the LimeWire’s Gnutella core to become a 100% BitTorrent client that is easy to use.”

The FTC alleged that the company developed the app in such a way that permissions are given for the app to share files without the user knowing it.

Potentially, this could mean that not only are users sharing what they want to share, they are also sharing personal information such as photos.

The FTC says that the company misled consumers about which files would actually be shared on their computer or mobile device.

The agreement made by the dev company requires that they should provide a free upgrade to ensure that default settings “correct the unintended sharing, and bars misrepresentations about what files its applications will share.”

The software allows users to share photos, videos, documents and music across the Gnutella P2P network.

FTC note that the app “allows potentially millions of people throughout the world to copy files from a user’s computer with little or no notice to that user at the time the files are shared.”

The problem that the FTC found was that permissions were set as default for the app to share everything stored on a device publicly and automatically.

Similarly, on the desktop platform, it was found that consumers “were misled into believing that files they downloaded [...] would not be shared with other users of the network.”

It is this that led to the allegations that the company had violated the FTC act as they were carrying out “unfair and deceptive practices.”

The settlement order will bar Frostwire from using default settings such as these and “requires clear and prominent disclosure about file sharing and how to disable it.”

“It also bars them from making material misrepresentations about the file-sharing behavior of their applications and prohibits them from distributing copies of the unlawful versions of the applications, and requires them to provide free upgrades that stop sharing files that the legacy applications had shared by default,” the FTC said.

Whilst the order is still subject to court approval, it seems that Frostwire have agreed to the terms set out in the agreement.


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