The school conducted its study by relying on software capable of replicating a BitTorrent user’s activities, according to a BBC report. The results were astronomical and the research results arrived after a three years of observation.
A total of around ten monitoring firms kept tabs on internet users. The tactics used included both indirect and direct monitoring. Indirect can provide monitors with IP addresses from a pool while direct allows the actual monitor to establish a connection with the downloader.
Most firms took just three hours to establish connections with content downloaders. Among the companies were copyright groups and security companies.
So why collect the data if you’re not going after illegal downloaders with lawsuits? “Many firms are simply sitting on the data. Such monitoring is easy to do and the data is out there so they think they may as well collect it as it may be valuable in future,” commented project lead Dr. Tom Chothia in the BBC’s report.
What’s even more interesting is that users didn’t have to be considered mass downloaders to be thrown into the blacklist pool. Simply downloading one top title could drag you into the monitored category as well. The issue of illegal file sharing really took off the in the early 2000s when sites like Napster faced increased scrutiny.