Okay, kids, a show of hands.
How many of you torrent music, games, books, movies?
For those of you who put their hand up, thanks for the honesty. For those who didnít, youíre only lying to yourselves.
But that doesnít really matter at the end of the day, because a recent report by the BBC suggests that those using BitTorrent clients to download whatever are being monitored by up to 10 different firms dedicated to the practice.
The revelation comes out of a study conducted at Birmingham University, where it was revealed that popular downloads are often logged by a firm within three hours of a user downloading it, and that the firms log the information by connecting as a peer to see where that particular file is going.
But who are these mysterious firms collecting data on file-sharers? Well, according to the report, the firms range from copyright-enforcement agencies to security firms as well as research labs.
What the various organizations are doing with said data though, is still up for debate.
While some have been thought to be collecting the data in order to sell it to the copyright holders of the files being downloaded, others may be using it for marketing purposes. Knowing who is interested in what types of movies, games or music and where they are, is definitely something marketers would want to know.
It just goes to show that while connecting to many different computers the world over to torrent a file faster and more efficiently, it also opens up the gates for things like monitoring to take place. By default, torrent programs do not distinguish where they get segments of the file youíre downloading from, and while you can set restrictions or even use a blocklist to attempt to stop monitors from tracking your downloads, the study says the firms arenít identified on current blocklists.
But on the other hand, so what?
Here in Canada, the prosecution of people illegally downloading files is nothing compared to that of our neighbours to the south. While the instances of people being rounded up and taken to court over the downloading of just a few songs is nowhere near as rampant as it once was in the witch-hunt internet piracy days of the mid-2000s, that method of enforcement has proven to be ineffective in combating the issue.
At the time of this writing, a DVD-quality version of the Avengers that was leaked online two weeks ago had nearly 40,000 people sharing it with the world on Pirate Bay alone. On Isohunt, another 30,000 people were sharing the film.
The truth of the matter is, the way we consume media and entertainment is in a state of flux and while Iím not advocating one thing or another, youíd be a fool to think that anything you do on the internet will ever be truly anonymous from here on out.
While the internet was once an unexplored no-manís land of opportunity and excitement, checks and boundaries are slowly being placed on every aspect of our online lives. The ďglory days of the internetĒ as some would call them, are now gone, but that doesnít mean you canít enjoy yourself online. Just do so knowing that at any given time, somebody else may be able to check in on you.