Usenet Is More Private and Secure!
Pretend for a second that you have some information that you want kept private. It doesn't necessarily have to be a deep dark secret or something embarrassing... it could just be a personal matter such as a medical diagnosis. Now suppose that you would like to transmit this information. Which of the following means of communicating this private matter sounds better to you?
- Scenario A: Write your private information on 50 scraps of paper, in plain old English, and add your name and street address. Don't bother putting the papers in sealed envelopes — just hand them to 50 strangers who have loosely agreed, in a non-enforceable manner, to pass the information on.
- Scenario B: Write your private information on 1 sheet of paper, in a secret code, and seal it into an envelope. Do not append your name or address. Hand the envelope to a single trusted courier who is operating under an enforceable privacy agreement (and who has a profit motive and reputation to uphold).
Pop Quiz: Which of these scenarios sounds safer to you? If you picked B, congratulations, you're a prospective Usenet user! Read on for an explanation.
Scenarios A and B, above, are colorful examples of the following truths:
- When you use Usenet, your IP address is never tracked or exposed to other users, and the vast majority of providers do not retain such information beyond the end of your session. You are effectively anonymous, which is really important. In effect anyone can use your IP address to gather personal information about you, including (in some cases) your real name, real street address, etc. Most other P2P technologies expose your IP address to every other user, and sometimes this information is retained historically.
- When you use most P2P services, you are effectively extending your trust to hundreds or even thousands of other users. You are trusting them not to upload illegal content or malware-infected files, and also not to misuse your IP address. With Usenet, you need only extend your trust to a single entity — your chosen Usenet provider — who has published, enforceable privacy and security policies.
- Usenet allows you to encrypt all of your uploads and downloads, and does not offer a mechanism for other users to capture this traffic. Unlike many other P2P technologies, you can rest assured that your transfers are not monitored or censored.
- Malware is a big problem for decentralized P2P technologies. There simply isn't a mechanism to address it. This is a privacy/security issue because malware often harvests your personal information for the purposes of identity theft.
- You can completely avoid being a party to illegal activity by not uploading, downloading, or sharing protected content.