Usability and privacy: a study of Kazaa P2P file-sharing

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P2P file sharing systems are rapidly becoming one of the most popular applications on the internet, with millions of users online exchanging files daily. While primarily intended for sharing multimedia files, programs such as Gnutella, Freenet, and Kazaa frequently allow other types of files to be shared. Although this has no doubt contributed to P2P filesharing’s growing popularity, it raises serious security concerns about the types of files that users are aware of sharing with others. Users who accidentally or unknowingly allow their private or personal files to be shared risk disclosing their private information to other users on the network.

In this paper, we use a cognitive walkthrough as well as a laboratory user study to analyze the usability of the Kazaa file sharing user interface. We discover that the majority of the users in our study were unable to tell what files they were sharing, and sometimes incorrectly assumed they
were not sharing any files when in fact they were sharing all files on their hard drive. We also looked at the current Kazaa network, and determined that a large number of users are currently sharing personal and private files without their knowledge, and from our dummy server we were able to see that other users are indeed taking advantage of this and downloading files such as “Credit Cards.xls” and email files.

Download the paper in PDF format here.