derekmead writes "A new study from Birmingham University in the U.K. found that people will likely be monitored within hours of downloading popular torrents by at least one of ten or more major monitoring firms. The team, led by security researcher Tom Chothia, ran software that acted like a BitTorrent client for three years and recorded all of the connections made to it. At SecureComm conference in Padua, Italy this week, the team announced that they found huge monitoring operations tracking downloaders that have been up and running for at least the entirety of their research. According to the team's presentation (PDF), monitors were only regularly detected in Top 100 torrents, while monitoring of more obscure material was more spotty. What's really mysterious is who all of the firms are. Chothia's crew found around 10 different monitoring entities, of which a few were identifiable as security companies, copyright firms, or other torrent researchers. But six entities could not be identified because they were masked through third party hosting. Now, despite firms focusing mostly on just the top few searches out there at any given time, that's still a massive amount of user data to collect and store. Why? Well, if a reverse class-action lawsuit were feasible, those treasure troves of stored data would be extremely valuable."