ONTD Political

BitTorrent study finds most file-sharers are monitored.

10:07 am - 09/05/2012
Anyone using file-sharing service BitTorrent to download the latest film or music release is likely to be monitored, UK-based researchers suggest.

A Birmingham University study indicates that an illegal file-sharer downloading popular content would be logged by a monitoring firm within three hours.

The team said it was "surprised" by the scale of the monitoring.

Copyright holders could use the data to crack down on illegal downloads.

The three-year research was carried out by a team of computer scientists who developed software that acted like a BitTorrent file-sharing client and logged all the connections made to it.

BitTorrent is a method of obtaining files by downloading from many users at the same time.

The logs revealed that monitoring did not distinguish between hardcore illegal downloaders and those new to it.

"You don't have to be a mass downloader. Someone who downloads a single movie will be logged as well," said Dr Tom Chothia, who led the research.

"If the content was in the top 100 it was monitored within hours," he said. "Someone will notice and it will be recorded."

Less popular content was also monitored although less frequently, the study indicated.

Marketing tool
The research identified about 10 different monitoring firms logging content. Of these, a handful were identifiable as copyright-enforcement organisations, security firms and even other research labs.

But about six of the biggest-scale monitors were harder to identify, as the companies behind them used third-party hosting firms to run the searches for them.

Why such firms wanted the massive amounts of data was unclear, said Dr Chothia.

"Many firms are simply sitting on the data. Such monitoring is easy to do and the data is out there so they think they may as well collect it as it may be valuable in future," he said.

Some firms alleged to be carrying out mass-scale monitoring have been accused of selling the data to copyright holders for marketing purposes.

"The data shows what content is popular and where," said Dr Chothia.

The study also revealed that so-called blocklists, used by some illegal file-sharers to prevent monitors from connecting to their computers, might not be much use.

"Many of the monitors we found weren't on the blocklists so these measures to bypass the monitors aren't really working," said Dr Chothia.

Hard evidence

Some copyright owners in Europe and the US are using IP addresses gathered by monitoring firms to apply for court orders obliging internet service providers to hand over the physical addresses associated with them.

They are then writing to individuals seeking recompense or warning of the possibility of court action.

But Dr Chothia doubts evidence gathered in this manner would stand up in court.

"All the monitors observed during the study would connect to file-sharers and verify that they were running the BitTorrent software, but they would not actually collect any of the files being shared," he said.

"It is questionable whether the monitors observed would actually have evidence of file-sharing that would stand up in court," he added.

Lawyers have previously cast doubt on whether evidence collected from an IP address can be used in court because such an address pinpoints the internet connection used for downloading rather than a specific individual.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-19474829

OP: Makes you wonder what else is being monitored eh?
hammersxstrings 5th-Sep-2012 07:50 pm (UTC)
lol everything is monitored. i know this sounds tin-hatty, but seriously. if they can do it, they are doing it.
circumambulate 5th-Sep-2012 08:05 pm (UTC)
always safe to assume being on the internet without a secured connection from point to point is no more private than walking down the street.
hammersxstrings 5th-Sep-2012 08:27 pm (UTC)
i would say not just the internet, although i know that's what we're talking here. cell phones too, especially with texting being so popular.
celtic_thistle 5th-Sep-2012 09:09 pm (UTC)
Welp. I'm boned.
livinghope 6th-Sep-2012 04:45 am (UTC)
lol me too.
iolarah 5th-Sep-2012 09:09 pm (UTC)
So much for even the illusion of privacy online...
entropius 5th-Sep-2012 11:10 pm (UTC)
You have no illusion of privacy -- joining a bittorrent swarm means you're putting your IP address out there and saying "Anyone want pieces of this file? I'll give them to you, or help you get them!" It's no different than posting on a bulletin board at a bus stop.
layweed 6th-Sep-2012 03:47 am (UTC)
Pretty much. I don't understand why people feel like BT is somehow a "safe" method. Anyone with a half-decent client can go to the connections list and look at the IP of every single user you're connected to.
justspaz 5th-Sep-2012 09:44 pm (UTC)
The Machine is always watching (/reference to TV show I used 'creative methods' to watch this summer).

I know these things are being monitored. I don't torrent but I use other methods. I always joke though that if someone in my family is going to be cracked down on for dling, it better be my brother first, because other than taking my DVDs when I'm away for school, he doesn't watch/listen to/play anything legally, probably.
thiefjuice 5th-Sep-2012 11:02 pm (UTC)
It's so cute how people think they have privacy, let's be real.

(Also, your icon!)
meran_flash 6th-Sep-2012 04:50 am (UTC)
I stopped torrenting when that new crackdown was supposed to start happening in July; Demonoid going down kind of freaked me out. I mourn the loss, ngl.
morbidoutlook 6th-Sep-2012 07:15 pm (UTC)
I was so devastated! But now I use usenet...
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