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Most people know that BitTorrent is far from anonymous, but seeing all your recent downloads listed on a public website is still quite a revelation. This is exactly what Youhavedownloaded.com does. The developers of the site want to make people aware of the public nature of BitTorrent, and are currently working on a more anonymous version of the leading file-sharing technology.
So what have you downloaded lately?
If you’re not using BitTorrent through a proxy or VPN, there’s a good chance that the rest of the world can see without asking.
YouHaveDownloaded is a new Russian-based service that claims to track about 20 percent of all public BitTorrent downloads. However, they go a step further than just collecting IP-addresses and file-names by exposing all the harvested information to the public on their website.
People who visit the site immediately see their download history, as far as it’s available in the site’s database. In addition, they can also search for files or IP-addresses to find out who’s downloading what. At the time of writing the database has information on 51,274,000 users who together shared 103,200 torrents.
TorrentFreak got in touch with Suren Ter, one of the site’s founders, to find out why they decided to create this spying tool.
“We just want to remind people that the Internet is not a place to expect privacy,” he says. “Nowadays many people use it without understanding what information they leave behind. Also, even those who understand choose to ignore it quite often.”
“Baby, this is the Internet. There is no such thing as privacy around here. You are sitting in the privacy of your own house, clicking links, reading stuff, watching movies. It may seem like you are pretty much alone, but smart nerds are watching you. They watch your every move. You are not human to them. You are a target — a consumer,” it reads.
Jokes aside, the site does indeed make people aware of the public nature of BitTorrent, something that can’t be stressed enough. Of course not everyone will be happy to see that their information is being exposed, so the developers also offer an option to de-list an IP-address.
Apart from exposing download habits the developers are also considering the creation of a more private file-sharing protocol. They already have a theoretical concept based on Bitcoin’s technology, but a workable piece of software is still very far away.
“The general idea is similar to what Bitcoin does. The key is to have an anonymous and reliable identity for each peer, and a Bitcoin-like signature chain algorithm will help,” Suren said.
The developers are currently trying to find out how viable their idea is, and then they’ll decide whether they should continue working on it or not. For now, they’ll keep on tracking dozens of millions of downloaders, for all the world to see.
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Police in three European countries have carried out an operation to disrupt two scene release groups said to be responsible for pre-releasing thousands of movies onto the Internet. The action, which focused on datacenters and home addresses across Germany, Switzerland and Hungary, targeted the leaders and equipment of CRUCiAL and iNSPiRED.
Their complaint centered on a pair of movie-focused release groups known as CRUCiAL and iNSPiRED. Following their creations in 2008 and 2006 respectively, GVU claimed that together the groups had released as many as 2,600 DVD and Blu-ray ripped movies online, many of them in advance of their street dates.
The GVU now say their investigation has borne fruit, with the initiation late last month of an international police operation against the leaders of the groups.
Under the control of police headquarters in Frankfurt, on November 29th raids were carried out against several private homes in Germany and computer datacenters in Switzerland and Hungary.
GVU said that pinning the groups’ servers down had proven problematic, since they had been supplied through resellers and rented under false names. Nevertheless, a 180TB Swiss server and a 30TB Hungarian server were both seized along with various computers and hard drives from locations in Germany.
According to the GVU complaint, CRUCiAL were responsible for running the server and obtaining source material from, among other places, two other Scene groups based in the United States.
Back home in Germany, the group was affiliated with 10 other groups who released the same movies online in different file formats.
The GVU investigation is said to have concluded that CRUCiAL were the source of the first DVD-quality Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince leak which had been ripped from a forensically-watermarked copy intended for Scandinavia. GVU say the DVD was physically stolen from an Austrian pressing plant at the behest of CRUCiAL’s leader. Copies of the movie then reportedly turned up on Kino.to, the now-defunct streaming movie portal raided earlier this year.
According to Scene records, both groups stopped releasing in an official capacity in 2010, iNSPiRED in May, CRUCiAL in September, with the former handing the ‘rights’ to their TV show releases to a pair of other groups. Both these new groups made their latest releases just today.
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Make no mistake, anti-piracy organizations have a thin line to tread. On the one hand they have to show their efforts yield results, and on the other that the piracy situation is so bad that they are needed more than ever. From two different mouths the RIAA has been doing that just this week but it’s hard to accept that either approach yields results without being counter-productive.
Some people believe that anti-piracy groups do a hateful and cynical job, and achieve little other than negative publicity.
Others maintain that they are absolutely necessary to protect the livelihoods of the world’s creative industries, and without them the world would be a worse place.
Whatever the belief held, proponents and opponents alike are nevertheless intrigued by what happens behind the closed doors of anti-piracy groups, particularly when viewed through the prism of their press announcements.
Just this week Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) Chairman & CEO Cary Sherman commented on the White House launch of a new awareness campaign along with PSAs designed to alert the US public to the apparent perils of piracy.
“As a community still plagued by the rampant theft of our work, we have seen firsthand the devastating effects this theft can have on the lives of hard-working, passionate musicians, songwriters, producers and countless others,” said Sherman.
While the RIAA’s support of this type of campaign is nothing new, the last decade witnessed a much more controversial way of spreading the anti-piracy message – massive legal action which saw the music group settle with thousands of individuals for millions of dollars and sue a few unfortunate souls to within an inch of their lives for millions of dollars each.
As the RIAA previously told TorrentFreak, that legal campaign was designed to attract attention after PSAs previously run by the group were shown to make “little difference”. But there are also other techniques available to the RIAA to tip the market in their favor.
During November, Tennessean.com ran an article titled Music Row spent $4 million on lobbying in 3 months in which they state that the industry’s focus on lobbying “comes after the music industry’s use of a tactic, now almost universally acknowledged as a failure, in which it filed lawsuits against individuals accused of illegally downloading songs to stop piracy.”
So a failure then? Absolutely not, says the RIAA in a just-published response.
“Our legal efforts served as an essential educational tool: Fans know far more now about copyright laws and the legal consequences of stealing music than ever before. Before initiating lawsuits in 2003, only 35 percent of people knew file-sharing on P2P was illegal; afterward, awareness grew to 70 percent,” writes RIAA Director of Communications Liz Kennedy.
“Where there was virtually no legal digital market before the lawsuits, today the market exceeds $3 billion annually, and revenue from online platforms will comprise more than 50 percent of total industry revenues this year,” she continues adding that doing nothing would have meant illegal downloading would have “skyrocketed further”.
The RIAA’s conclusion is shown in the title of the piece – RIAA largely succeeds in goal of bringing piracy under control – but that seems scarcely compatible with Sherman’s comments that the industry is being subjected to rampant theft, unless “controlled rampant theft” is something the RIAA associates with a successful outcome to an anti-piracy campaign.
While Sherman may be offering support to the new PSA’s issued by the government, it’s clear that from previous comments the RIAA have little faith in them. The sue-em-all campaign certainly raised awareness, but it hasn’t negated the need for millions to be spent on lobbying, most recently in support of PROTECT IP and SOPA.
And here’s the thing. There are few people outside the music industry (maybe even inside) who think that suing customers turned out to be a particularly clever thing to do. Similar numbers are supportive of the industry’s championing of SOPA. All of this only adds credibility to the arguments of those who say that anti-piracy groups do a hateful and cynical job, and achieve little else other than generate negativity.
Worryingly, this is a view widely held by the ‘Internet Generation’ who are the ones expected to forget the past and utilize RIAA-sanctioned music services in the future. The cry of F*** THE RIAA didn’t exist before the lawsuits and it will take a long time to forget – support of draconian SOPA-style legislation only succeeds in prolonging the memories.
Of course, the RIAA will always justify their worth, characterizing questionable former campaigns as a success but noting that there is a new crisis in the piracy war that means they’re needed more than ever before.
However, all is not lost, because the RIAA already have the solution. I’ll leave you with Liz Kennedy’s words from The Tennessean which show that rather than throwing millions at lawyers and lobbying, maybe the RIAA should spend some time getting advice from Valve and Steam, and learning how influencing the public is really done.
“To be clear, no legal efforts are a panacea,” says Kennedy, “compelling legal consumption options are the most important.”
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