Watching them, watching you, tracking BitTorrent use
Have you ever used your broadband connection and thought someone is watching you? Well if you have used BitTorrent then some UK based researchers may have uncovered who it is, and that would be monitoring firms that log BitTorrent use.
The BBC News report covers a Birmingham University study that created a BitTorrent like client for the simple purpose of logging all connections that were made to it. Analysis of the logs suggests that if you share popular content then a monitoring firm is likely to have visited you within three hours. There also seems to be no distinction between someone just using BitTorrent occassionally, and those who run it permanently to build their own digital Internet archive.
The researchers found 10 different monitoring firms, of which some were identifiable as bodies engaged in copyright enforcement, and some appeared to be other researchers running similar studies. The concern raised in the article about the amount of data collected and what its future use may be is of a real concern. There are suggestions that the data collection is part of a larger marketing drive, so that copyright holders can be shown data that file X has been infringed Y times in the last month, hence you should buy our services.
The issue over whether IP addresses in logs are sufficient to launch a civil copyright infringement case has never been totally proven one way or another in court. The current Golden Eye International scheme, that is theory underway may end up in court if someone challenges the letters. People in the past have questioned whether firms trying to police copyright infringement have full proof of infringement, and the snippet from this study that they observed lots of monitors connecting, but no attempts to collect any files is very revealing.