Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Why Homeland Security Should Be Interested In File-Sharing Sites

This public comment in a public forum sparked a minor firestorm:

".... It took me a full day to realize that people were downloading a book that had been digitally encoded with my full name and IP address in the tag on every page. ...(rant redacted)... There was steam literally coming out of my ears, I was just that angry. I mean, DRMs and other such identifying features are one thing—they're pretty much invisible to others and can be removed. But having a person's name and IP address printed on every single page for all to see is quite another and that kind of information in the wrong hands could be disastrous...."

The lawbreaker who posted this is concerned about her identity, so I will not give full attribution. I consider this small fragment of a long public conversation meets the Fair Use criteria, as it is a small fragment, and I am using it for the purposes of education, commentary, critique etc.

The correspondent's public friends, most of whom are (for the time being) anonymous, went on to advise this young idiot how to crack DRM, how to remove publisher-generated code, and of the suitable precautions that any perpetrator of file-sharing should take.

Pirate sites are global. The owner could reside in Russia. The site could be hosted in The Netherlands. There could be "Teams" in India. Or Iran.

Most members are fairly anonymous. They can keep their profiles private. They can pm each other. (Some, however, openly befriend each other on Facebook and follow each other on Twitter, and it is easy to see how truly global these pirate friendships can be.)

The e-books aren't hosted on the pirate sites. Members share links to files which are hosted on other sites. Everyone disclaims responsibility. Many hosting sites pay lip service to DMCA but blatantly conspire to keep secret the real names of the uploaders and to conceal the titles and author names of the books being shared.

For instance: Sticky: Hide & Code Your Links Or The Posts Will Be Deleted

As we can see from the comments above, many pirates know how to remove DRM and personal information. If they can do that, they could ADD information, couldn't they? We know that some of them add viruses!

Haven't spies and so forth used books as means to communicate secret messages? What was the Enigma Code about? Now, with ebooks, anyone who wanted to pass a secret message wouldn't need two copies of a physical book. They wouldn't even need to purchase a book at all.

Maybe that is too fanciful. Hey, I write fantasy for a living. That's the way my mind works.

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