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Major ISPs Help Fund BitTorrent User Tracking Research 190

Posted by Soulskill
from the santa-and-comcast-both-know-if-you've-been-naughty dept.
An anonymous reader writes "I was scanning conference proceedings to come up with ideas for a reading group I run at my workplace, and I noticed an interesting paper from the new IEEE WIFS forensics conference. Researchers from the University of Colorado have published a technique for tracking BitTorrent users (PDF) by joining and actively probing torrent swarms using low-cost cloud computing services. They claim their methods allowed them to monitor the entire Pirate Bay torrent set for as little as $13/mo using EC2. But that's not even the interesting part. Their work appears to have been 'funded in part through gifts from PolyCipher' — a broadband ISP consortium. That's right; three major national ISPs funded this round of BitTorrent tracking research, not the MPAA/RIAA. Could this be evidence of ISP support for ACTA and a global three-strikes law?"
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Major ISPs Help Fund BitTorrent User Tracking Research

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  • by grahamsaa (1287732) on Monday March 08, 2010 @06:18PM (#31407390)
    ISPs could simply be looking for ways to find heavy bittorrent users, provide proof of the fact that they're using a lot of bandwidth to download copyrighted content, and to throttle them down or to block this traffic entirely.

    ISPs have a strong incentive to reduce heavy bittorrent traffic on their networks so they don't have to upgrade as often. If they can delay these upgrades under the guise of supporting intellectual property rights, it's a win win for them. I'm not saying I support this kind of thing, but it makes business sense.
  • Not Necessarily (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MidnightBrewer (97195) on Monday March 08, 2010 @06:19PM (#31407396)

    It could be evidence of ISPs wanting to reduce unwanted BitTorrent traffic by taking a pro-active stance against piracy. BitTorrent eats up a lot of bandwidth and has been targeted for throttling for a while now. Why only throttle it if you can kill it outright?

  • by renger (1607815) * on Monday March 08, 2010 @06:22PM (#31407452)
    As cable company researchers, their goal is to maximize profits for the cable industry. This includes: reducing (and delaying) the need to invest in new cable-modem equipment, reducing the size of the Internet transit circuits that they must purchase from real IP backbone providers, reducing the quantity of TV channels they must give-up to make room for DOCSIS (cable modem) channels, reducing any competition for video services from (non-cable-company) Internet-video sources, and so on. Cable company executives care about MPAA/RIAA only so far as it affects the size of their bonus checks. It is always about the money.

    Let's hope the fiber-based operators kick their sorry coax ass. (And let us be vigilant that the fiber operators don't become similarly arrogant and unresponsive once they assume the throne of dominant last-mile provider.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 08, 2010 @06:27PM (#31407508)

    Analyzing traffic without a warrant is a privacy violation.

    Bullshit.

  • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Monday March 08, 2010 @06:27PM (#31407512)

    ISPs have a strong incentive to reduce heavy bittorrent traffic on their networks so they don't have to upgrade as often. If they can delay these upgrades under the guise of supporting intellectual property rights, it's a win win for them. I'm not saying I support this kind of thing, but it makes business sense.

    Totally agree with that. Bandwidth costs money, sure the cost might be dropping, but why would you (as an ISP) actually WANT your consumers to go using all that bandwidth that you are selling them? Wouldn't it make much more business sense to sell them a plan with 100Gb (Yes, in Australia, that's still considered a very high amount of traffic) and have them use 2Gb for their surfing and emails - oh, and find a nice way to kick off all those customers who actually use what they pay for - without looking like it's got anything to do with you, after all, if you sell high usage accounts, you can't kick off high users... erm... wait wat?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 08, 2010 @06:34PM (#31407594)

    If ISPs would do their job, P2P would be an almost negligible load: Multicasting would replace it and virtually eliminate packet duplication. Working against Bittorrent will only make things worse for ISPs. Every layer of defense against deep packet inspection and tracking adds load to the network. If ISPs really support Bittorrent tracking research, they must (stupidly) think that they can make an impact on file sharing. What will happen is that they will only cause further evolution of file sharing protocols. They should work on developing and deploying more network efficient distribution protocols (e.g. multicasting). File sharers have different priorities.

  • Pirates fund ISPs. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 08, 2010 @06:37PM (#31407632)

    If a pirate stops being a pirate then they stop needing the (expensive) super fast broadband and will happily settle for a budget connection. ISP's thinking a bit too much in the short term here?

  • Re:Not Necessarily (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 08, 2010 @06:39PM (#31407648)

    Yeah. They don't want a three-strikes law, because when you're "out" they can't overcharge you for bandwidth. What they do want is to stop you from using available bandwidth, without pissing off anyone commercial (e.g. blocking Hulu traffic would save massive bandwidth, but Hulu would get their ass in court. Going after bittorrenters, and especially "bad" bittorrent from a copyright perspective, means only pissing off customers (which is apparently many ISPs' #1 priority) and ensuring a lot of them can't fight back without risking their own asses from the MAFIAA after info on their torrenting habits is aired in open court.

    Really, if you start from an adversarial relationship with your own customers, it makes perfect sense.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday March 08, 2010 @06:47PM (#31407718)

    There is a simple solution to this: Sell only what you have. Or rather, market it correctly. When you sell people 8mbit synchronous, they will expect this to be available to them and they will maybe try to use it. Hoping that they just want to have a fat pipe but won't use it is like hoping that people who buy cars that go 200mph won't drive that fast.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday March 08, 2010 @06:48PM (#31407738)

    It also has a tendency to be full blast all the time. Part of what makes cheap lines cheap is that when you have a lot of people, you can share bandwidth and normal usage patterns are such that they don't interfere with each other. You can see this when you have a roommate in that your cable modem doesn't suddenly feel half the speed just because there's another person using it as well. You'll probably find that it is the same overall. Same deal with an office LAN. You all have 100mbps to your desktops and say gig to the server. Yet even with 100 people the server still seems to go full speed on your connection all the time.

    Well the reason is because normal usage isn't sustained at maximum level. It is full of spikes. You download something and then once you have the data the usage stops. The net effect is that you can oversubscribe lines and people still get good service. Everyone gets to pay less and all is well. The larger the scale the more true this seems to be. The peaks in individual usage average out such that you can oversubscribe by a good amount and nobody has problems.

    However that breaks down if people start using things to the max all the time. The suck up a lot of bandwidth and leave little for everyone else, and it doesn't relent.

    Bittorrent is very bad for that. Part of it is because of the uploading, most torrent clients will just keep serving out what they've downloaded until they are stopped. Another part is the many BTers seem to be collectors. They'll download any and every thing they come across that they have any interest in and sort through it later. They always have multiple downloads going to get more stuff.

    As such it really screws over the way cheap connections work. So it isn't just that you are using so much, though that is part of it, it is that by using so much in a continuous fashion it degrades service for others.

  • by teh moges (875080) on Monday March 08, 2010 @06:56PM (#31407814) Homepage
    You would find that the majority of the 'good' botnets rely on many computers doing low-bandwidth operations, so that the owner of the computer doesn't notice. If the speed of the Internet gets too slow, the owner could send the computer in to get fixed, and the IT guy would find and remove the problem files. If the owner never notices, its less likely this could happen. There still exists viruses that do the 'high impact' thing, but they are less common now and don't last very long (for the previously mentioned reason).
  • by LordLucless (582312) on Monday March 08, 2010 @07:06PM (#31407922)
    I imagine you're not in the US.

    I'm from Australia, and our ISPs love bittorrent, for the reason you describe - it drives people towards their higher data, more expensive, plans. In the US, however, their ISPs generally only sell unlimited plans. They are therefore financially motivated to try and stop people from actually using their services. They get the most money from people who subscribe, but don't use much bandwidth. People who use a lot of bandwidth actually cost them money.

    Their behaviour is a result of their business plan. It seems most of them realize this, but having pimped the "unlimited" data plans for so long, they encounter consumer backlash when they try and change to metered useage.
  • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Monday March 08, 2010 @07:44PM (#31408298)

    On a related note fat people are now banned from All You Can Eat restaurants.

    They have a tendency to eat all the time. Part of what makes cheap food cheap is that when you have a lot of people, you can share kitchens and normal eating patterns are such that they don't interfere with each other. You can see this when you have a roommate in that your microwave doesn't suddenly cook at half the speed just because there's another person using it as well sometimes. You'll probably find that it is the same overall. Same deal with an office kitchen. You all have 1000 watts to your coffee machine and say 3000 to the plug. Yet even with 10 people the coffee maker still seems to go full speed on your java all the time.

    Well the reason is because normal usage isn't sustained at maximum level. It is full of spikes. You eat something and then once you have the meal the usage stops. The net effect is that you can oversubscribe kitchens and people still get good service. Everyone gets to pay less and all is well. The larger the scale the more true this seems to be. The peaks in individual usage average out such that you can oversubscribe by a good amount and nobody has problems.

    However that breaks down if people start using things to the max all the time. The suck up a lot of gravy and leave little for everyone else, and it doesn't relent.

    Fatties are very bad for that. Part of it is because of the farting, most fat people will just keep serving out what they've eaten until they are stopped. Another part is the many fatties seem to be huge. They'll eat any and every thing they come across that they have any interest in and digest it later. They always have multiple plates going to get more stuff.

    As such it really screws over the way cheap restaurants work.
    So it isn't just that you are using so much, though that is part of it, it is that by using so much in a continuous fashion it degrades service for others.

    That was disturbingly easy to translate....

  • by goombah99 (560566) on Monday March 08, 2010 @08:21PM (#31408634)

    Even a perfectly neutral ISP rightly should have a love hate relationship with bit torrent. Bit torrent can be a good thing if most of the peers are local connections. And they espeically should like peer groups that dont' exit or enter their network.

    And if an ISP were really savvy about the network topology they could strategically place their own seeds to create local peering groups. But they could not do that without having a way to track the torrent topology on their network.

    So maybe they are good people that are looking at this as a way to optmize local torrent networks for everyone's benefit including their own?

    However that reasoning assumes that with or without bit torrent the same amount of data transfers would be made. Local bit torrents thus are beneficial. But if you take the assumption that without bit torrent not as many data transfers would be made, but people would still be willing to pay the same for their service, then the ISP would love to squish bit torrent completely.

    Moreover if they have content to sell then any bit torrent use is competition for the bandwidht they want to sell high QOS content over (including voip content).

  • by pengin9 (1595865) on Monday March 08, 2010 @08:29PM (#31408716)
    why did you sign it then if you don't want your dog shot?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 08, 2010 @08:35PM (#31408754)

    I think you're forgetting in the torrent protocol when someone has a fast enough connection they get promoted to being a supernode.

  • by JesseMcDonald (536341) on Monday March 08, 2010 @09:33PM (#31409174) Homepage

    Maybe they've put a gun to his head?

    If they "put a gun to his head" then the contract is automatically void. For there to be a valid contract both parties must accept it voluntarily, and there must be a reasonable "meeting of the minds", i.e. agreement on the nature of the contract. Note that if you claim to understand a contract before signing you should expect to be taken at your word, whatever your actual understanding may be. See also: due diligence.

    That's the whole point of inalienable rights: so you can't be forced to give them up.

    A contract allowing a third-party to shoot your dog does not forfeit any inalienable rights. Domestic animals are property, and can be killed ("put to sleep") by the owner, or anyone granted permission by the owner. A contract is a perfectly valid way to grant such permission. For that matter, the contract could just as easily have transferred ownership of the animal, after which its fate would be entirely up to the other party.

    Pretty much the only right universally recognized as inalienable—among those who recognize inalienable rights at all—is the right to self-ownership, i.e. the right to one's own mind and body. This is usually considered self-evident, as the mind and body cannot be separated from one's sense of self. Everything else, however, is separable (alienable) and thus may be contractually transferred with the current owner's permission.

  • by mjwx (966435) on Tuesday March 09, 2010 @02:00AM (#31410700)

    An entity with broad control of what people can and can't communicate is more frightening to me than losing the .00000001% of people who make their millions from somebody else's art.

    There, fixed that for you.

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