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Major ISPs Help Fund BitTorrent User Tracking Research 190

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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  • Do it your self (Score:4, Interesting)

    by KevMar ( 471257 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @07:22PM (#31407446) Homepage Journal

    All they want are honest numbers. We know we cannot trust MPAA/RIAA for those.

    I'm not saying we can trust the numbers or have any idea how ISP's will use the results. But they will be more informed when they decided to support or fight ACTA.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 08, 2010 @07:35PM (#31407602)

    No, he's right. Even if it isn't now, it damn well should be.

  • Close to home (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 08, 2010 @07:37PM (#31407630)

    I remember reading about some of this papers references last year. I found it interesting as at the time I was working for a company that had been data mining, advertising and "other" activities over P2P networks for several years. Working there made me feel kinda sleazy, but it was a paycheck when I needed it, at least until the investors got spooked and stopped writing pay checks...

  • by caffeinemessiah ( 918089 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @07:40PM (#31407658) Journal

    This seems to be a non-story, unless this is the first time these financial ties have been revealed between bit torrent researchers and ISPs.

    This is not so much about calling the researchers' methods and findings into question as the ISPs motivation for funding the research. As far as I can tell, the research seems to be sound and pretty neat. The question is WHY are ISPs interested in FUNDING this sort of research?

    One possibility that the submitter didn't consider is the fact that many researchers list their funding sources on all published papers, regardless of whether the funding was given to fund that specific project. So it could be that ISPs generally fund this particular research group in any case, and they happened to put out a paper that analyzes BT. In other words, there might not be anything sinister going on.

  • by aldld ( 1663705 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @07:41PM (#31407664) Homepage

    for as little as $13/mo

    My eyes somehow jumped to that part first. At first, looks kinda like an ad, doesn't it?

    Monitor Pirate Bay torrents TODAY, for only $13/month!

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @07:42PM (#31407676)

    From my point of view, I'd hold bets that 9 out of 10 "heavy users" on the internet are not swapping P2P files but are infected by trojans spewing spam.

  • by glyn.phillips ( 826462 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @07:44PM (#31407700)
    There is a very real possibility that ISP's will be required to enforce copyright laws in the same way that convenience stores are required to enforce age limits for alcohol and tobacco. ISP's might also lose the "safe harbor" provisions and become "accessories" to the actions of their users.

    If either of these possibilities becomes law the ISP's will be required to shut down IP infringing traffic. So it could be evidence that ISP's are looking for a way to comply with such laws should they be passed.

    It would not be the first time that the U.S. Congress has put a deadline on a technology which did not exist yet.

    "No man's life, liberty or property is safe when congress is in session."
  • by macintard ( 1270416 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @07:46PM (#31407716)
    How is analyzing the data of a copyrighted torrent via a publicly available tracker a privacy violation? And why are you talking about warrants here? I didn't see any mention of a governmental agency utilizing this technology...
  • by copponex ( 13876 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @08:07PM (#31407936) Homepage

    The internet is quickly turning everything we consume into data. Cable companies want to fragment what being on the internet means, and then charge you extra for wanting to use port 25 or have the "privilege" of using bittorrent. They want you to pay for cable TV even if you can get everything off of hulu or directly from

    If they can use technology to kick off high bandwidth users or force them to pay more without having to expand infrastructure, that's a hell of a lot better than expanding infrastructure. More short term profit. Higher stock price.

  • lol (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @08:07PM (#31407948)
    Being someone that works for a major ISP in the department in which we receive and act on copyright complaints, I can tell you... we hate it. Think of it this way, when the DMCA was passed we suddenly had to create an entire department that produced no profits. In fact, it sometimes forces us to disconnect customers and LOSE money. I know that managent rutinely goes to our legal department to find out if they can just stop enforcing DMCA all together. Now, throttling the bandwidth of torrent users? Yea... they're all over that. What ISPs want are little old ladies paying $100/month for 10MB service and only using it to check their mail once a day.
  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @08:45PM (#31408312)

    I'm saying it usually isn't. This is based on my observation of torrent users. Now I'm not talking about the person who uses it to get patches for a game and doesn't know it, or the guy who downloads a Linux ISO for work or something. The ISPs have no problem with them, their bandwidth usage is fairly normal. The people I'm talking about are the torrent head types. Generally they are downloading copyrighted content, though not always. They just go crazy, they download tons and tons and tons of stuff, since it costs nothing. They have downloads going in the background, all the time. They are the ones who use tons, who cause problems. They just queue things up when they finish what they are getting now.

  • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @09:28PM (#31408704) Homepage Journal

    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.

    On the flip side, ISPs have a strong incentive to reduce heavy BitTorrent traffic that goes into or comes out of their networks far, far more than traffic within their network. If I were managing an ISP, I'd be analyzing BitTorrent traffic to find out how much of it is staying locally, and using that to decide whether it's worth looking for a way to extend the protocol to prefer nearby seeds by adding additional DHCP response fields, by doing something clever with mDNS, etc. Heck, if I were managing an ISP, I'd be contributing code to BitTorrent to allow ISPs to specify information about the IP ranges within our regional network and the cost of uploads/downloads through our various peer ISPs, thus allowing the P2P client to weight its traffic towards connecting to other P2P peers that are cheaper for the ISP if all other things are equal, and allowing the P2P client to more effectively use bandwidth by making sure that only one P2P client within the regional network pulls each chunk of a given file through the expensive upstream pipes, then seeds it to the other peers through the faster regional network. Performance should improve on the average *and* the cost to the ISPs would go down.

  • by Pence128 ( 1389345 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @10:18PM (#31409068)

    ...every single packet a user has sent/received and store it for 7 years...

    Is that seriously in ACTA? I'm pretty sure that's almost impossible. If it is, find something on their local network and keep bouncing traffic off it.Comcast has 16M customers and a 250GB cap. That works out to about 1.5TB per second.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.