It’s no great surprise to me, but at least when it gets covered on the BBC News then more people will believe it’s true. We are not anonymous online and in fact there are people actively tracking and spying on us for a variety of reasons. The BitTorrent story is related to a study completed by Birmingham University, who concluded that anyone using the file sharing service BitTorrent was being monitored. The study is published here – The Unbearable Lightness of Monitoring: Direct Monitoring in BitTorrent
The study points out that there are at least 10 large monitoring firms logging details of illegal downloads using these sites. If you start downloading a pirate copy of a popular film or album, your IP address will be recorded within 4 hours by these firms. So if you don’t fancy being on a list of individuals guilty of copyright theft sitting on the desk of some sneaky litigation lawyer – then you’d better be careful using torrent sites like this and Pirate Bay.
So why are these firms doing this? What are they actually planning to use these huge lists of illegal downloaders for? Well there’s probably a certain amount of ‘just in case’ – the data could potentially be lucrative so they are grabbing it now. The biggest clue comes in the various court cases that have appeared over the years – one of the most famous being the slimy bunch from – ACS Law.
This UK Law Firm obtained thousands of these names and IP addresses from the ISPs of individuals who’s computers had been used for downloading illegal copies of films (mainly pornographic). Instead of taking them all to court for copyright theft, they decided to send each and every person on the list a demand for a sum of money usually around £500 in order to stop any further action.
These threats were often a complete surprise to the receivers, they included the list of the films that were downloaded illegally. Often they would know nothing about these films because of course the person who received the letter was merely the person who paid the ISP invoice. So grandparents were receiving letters about downloading illegal porn films that others had downloaded using their connection. Fortunately this horrible practice was eventually stopped but not before thousands had paid up to these threats.
Take a look at these logs which were what the solicitors had obtained from the ISPs.
It’s a new business model for the porno industry. Instead of making a cheap, low budget porno flick and sell it online for a few bucks – you monitor ISP logs and then blackmail anyone who had downloaded a pirate copy. I mean even the innocent are going to have some nerve to stand up and defend themselves from the charge of downloading a pirated copy of “Freddie’s British Granny F*ck Volume 1” !! No of course I didn’t download it dear, don’t you believe me !!!!
So don’t use Torrents if you’re going to download pirated stuff, there’s a whole army of commercial lawyer leech types waiting to track you down if you do. It’s very easy for them to pay a firm to monitor the downloads of files from P2P sites – they can see your IP address in the Peer list of the tracker or even just join the download when they’ll directly connect to your computer. Your IP address (and hence your name and address – check this) is then directly linked to the illegal download and you’ll be on a list like the one above.
Use proxies and security software like Identity Cloaker to protect your self and hide your identity. There are also a few Private Usenet feeds you can subscribe to with SSL to encrypt your connection – like Astraweb and Bintube.