Is the private tracker community facing an existential threat?

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thedeh

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#1
I think we can all agree that twenty-sixteen has been a dumpster fire of a year. We've seen the rise of Trump including a resurgence of overt bigotry and racism, the Syrian humanitarian crisis, the exit of Britain from the EU, a string of beloved-celebrity deaths, and to top it all off, our little corner of the internet has come under attack from law enforcement.

The sudden closure of BCG by the UK's Intellectual Property Crime Unit saw the arrest of two UK nationals responsible for operating the site, including pjcnet pjcnet , one of the most beloved staffers in the PT community and active contributor on TPS. This was followed by the shocking closure of What.CD after 12 OVH servers consisting of the What.CD infrastructure were seized by French cybercrime authorities. We also saw the closure of SciHD in a way that can only arouse speculation that security concerns were at the very least a motivating factor.

These were three of the oldest and most beloved trackers in the private tracker community. Each consisting of around a decade of content archived by thousands of passionate members. The shock from their loss has reverberated throughout the community and even made its way into the mainstream press.

Much of the shock came as the realization dawned on us that no tracker is immune from the ever present and pernicious reach of law enforcement.

Immediately after the BCG seizure/arrests I began reading about the sudden concerted effort by law enforcement to shift their priorities toward attacking private trackers. One member of the community writes:
If cracking down on private trackers is being made a priority by LE, it's only a matter of time until users (uploaders, FLS etc.) will be caught up in tracker busts too imo. At that point (hypothetically speaking), I as a user would be safer using public trackers behind a VPN/Seedbox instead of being a member of a private tracker.
I wrote at the time: "I don't see anything that suggests this. Gaming trackers have always been targeted and this is the first bust in years (from memory). It will take several more busts in a row before this becomes a trend." However, after What.CD was seized these comments became a chorus singing that of Armageddon. But does the attempted (and ultimately failed) seizure of What.CD really suggest the private tracker community is under increased attack?

IMO, no. Both of these operations were conducted over several years by, as far as we know, entirely separate organizations. There is nothing so far to suggest this was part of a coordinated international effort to target private trackers. Most of these comments are hyperbole with little basis in reality.

The more rational view from my perspective is that private trackers have always been under attack, and while there is a significant amount of resources dedicated to eliminating our treasured trackers, we're not exactly public enemy number one. Seizures have always been a fact of life in this game, after all, Oink was seized nearly a decade ago. This is a reminder to never get complacent, but isn't a threat to our very existence.
 
Seven

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#2
So true. You might win the battle, but the pirates win the war. Cut off one head, and 3 shall rise. No one can stop the progress of piracy.
 
Janner

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#3
Most private trackers are small fry. WCD was an exception with roughly 145,000 members and was getting too big to be ignored by the authorities. BCG was another exception, being run by someone from the UK. Very dangerous - bad enough being a user here - almost suicidal to be an owner of a tracker.
 
dieNal

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#4
I'm beginning to worry about the UK trackers such as TVCUK and the like, do you they will be made a target? As they do a lot of stuff from the UK.
 
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#5
I'm beginning to worry about the UK trackers such as TVCUK and the like, do you they will be made a target? As they do a lot of stuff from the UK.
Not really. They concentrate on broadcast TV, and are fairly small in the number of users. Whereas music and games hit the revenue of the music and gaming industries.
 
Phantasia

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#6
Well as you say, these were actions that were carried out along the years ...
It could only be a matter of time until the wipe hammer comes into play in several other trackers, as who knows... Similar actions are in progress for trackers such as, GGN, PTP, HDBits, etc...

I actually find a bit of reasoning behind it, to go after users in the future as well. But I guess that law enforcement feels that closing the sites down, could be more effective in the long term. Now if we are talking about major effort consolidation and cooperation between several agencies... We might be looking at a very grim future for private trackers.
 
snuffles

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#7
So true. You might win the battle, but the pirates win the war. Cut off one head, and 3 shall rise. No one can stop the progress of piracy.
The loss of WCD and friends has me worried. More and more, "cloud" services like iTunes and Netflix dictate the content available to me.

Private trackers and the community around them, preserve the value and Art of ; content / sound / stories / visuals / knowledge, that define the passions of the modern human need.

Fuck the law! You will struggle to find this content elsewhere.
 
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thedeh

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#8
I actually find a bit of reasoning behind it, to go after users in the future as well. But I guess that law enforcement feels that closing the sites down, could be more effective in the long term. Now if we are talking about major effort consolidation and cooperation between several agencies... We might be looking at a very grim future for private trackers.
Oh look... some "hyperbole with little basis in reality". :p
 
Phantasia

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#9
Well it might sound as some hyperbole indeed, but if you think about the fact that Private trackers came in as being the all mighty fortresses, untouchable, etc... We have now verified that this is not the case...
Who's to say that in the near future we could not be looking into a next stage in the plan?
 
SHA-1

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#10
Seizures have always been a fact of life in this game
Yeah everyone in the private trackerworld has a few of their own fondly remembered RIPs, be it stopped by law enforcement or by actions from staff itself. We're living with the idea that everything can end suddenly - which it totally can - so maybe it's good now that What's gone we can begin living with the idea that we can rebuild with great force and our community sticks together.

We will find a way.
 
thedeh

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#11
Who's to say that in the near future we could not be looking into a next stage in the plan?
Because there's simply no reason to believe this. Sure it's possible (although incredibly difficult), but it's never happened. So for now, it's nothing but a fear mongering hypothetical. Let's at least wait until there's some evidence of such action before getting worked up about it.
we can begin living with the idea that we can rebuild with great force and our community sticks together.
Indeed. :)
 
Cherokee

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#12
Not really. They concentrate on broadcast TV, and are fairly small in the number of users. Whereas music and games hit the revenue of the music and gaming industries.
dude! They shut down radioarchive.cc, which only had spoken word radio. TVCUK lost their domain, and had to move their servers a year or two ago, and were also shut down over allowing Downton Abbey, which turns out to be a co-production with PBS. This is why they don't want US co-productions on the site.

I used to think they wouldn't bother with stuff that was aired for free anyways, but I don't think this is true anymore.
 
WitherSlick

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#13
So true. You might win the battle, but the pirates win the war. Cut off one head, and 3 shall rise. No one can stop the progress of piracy.
I do agree that nobody will stop piracy. However for certain types of content I think it's only a matter of time. We've still only cracked what, one or two denuvo games? Video game piracy really will die except for older games. The DRM for video games will only get stronger and stronger. Already most new games require an internet connection to play at all.

The question isn't whether the feds can take down a private tracker, the question is will it become safer to use a public tracker and VPN? If they start going after uploaders, FLS, and etc then it really might be wiser to move back to public trackers.
 
thedeh

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#14
They shut down radioarchive.cc, which only had spoken word radio. TVCUK lost their domain, and had to move their servers a year or two ago, and were also shut down over allowing Downton Abbey, which turns out to be a co-production with PBS. This is why they don't want US co-productions on the site.
It seems arbitrary but for the most part I think they just shutdown whatever sites they can. The lower the fruit.
The question isn't whether the feds can take down a private tracker, the question is will it become safer to use a public tracker and VPN? If they start going after uploaders, FLS, and etc then it really might be wiser to move back to public trackers.
Personally I don't think that will ever be necessary.

We're already seeing private trackers evolve on the issue of storing user data in the wake of the recent seizures. For quite some time concern for law enforcement has been seen as secondary to that for traders/cheaters/etc., and trackers' policies have reflected that dynamic.

Once this flips and law enforcement becomes the primary concern (which will happen if there are more seizures), we'll see PT's abandon the collection of user data and allow VPN's (as some trackers have already begun to do).
 
WitherSlick

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#15
Personally I don't think that will ever be necessary.

We're already seeing private trackers evolve on the issue of storing user data in the wake of the recent seizures. For quite some time concern for law enforcement has been seen as secondary to that for traders/cheaters/etc., and tracker's policies have reflected that dynamic.

Once this flips and law enforcement becomes a primary concern (which will happen if there are more seizures), we'll see PT's abandon the collection of user data and allow VPN's (as some trackers have already begun to do).
I really hope you're right about that. Clearly, traders and cheaters are bad, but I think storing the vast amounts of user data that they have for years is a dangerous proposition. Imagine if the feds did get what.cd's database before they deleted it. Sure most people would be fine, but really the security of users and staff should be priorities #1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 for a BitTorrent tracker. I try not to be overly paranoid, but private sites do keep a lot of data by necessity. I never really had a problem with it before, but more and more draconian laws keep getting passed in pretty much every first world country... I know it hasn't happened yet, but it seems like it's only a matter of time until eventually that data will be used against us.

Hopefully, the seizures and shutdowns stop, but I wouldn't count on it personally. I think that since what.cd shut down Law Enforcement probably has our scent. For them, it will really just be a question of is it worth it to shut us down. I pretty much agree with what others have said about what.cd eventually just being too big of a target to ignore. But consider this: What.cd and BCG were both shut down in multi-year investigations. I'd be willing to bet they weren't the only two trackers with Law Enforcement investigations happening.

Another thing I think will happen in the coming years is a crackdown on seedbox companies. Already OVH is starting to throttle p2p traffic. I've never heard of a seedbox company getting shut down yet, but I'd be willing to bet it starts happening at some point. Seriously though... it makes sense. Nobody is making as much of BitTorrent as seedbox companies are.
 
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unikboss

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#16
we'll see PT's abandon the collection of user data and allow VPN's (as some trackers have already begun to do).
I'm ecstatic to see this move. It's the reason I haven't moved any further into the PT world because most places I want to go now seem to want me to sign up from home connection like what did. I'm not OK with that.

Priv + VPN > Pub + VPN
I hope one day private trackers actually push security, maybe even make it a rule as users seems to read the rules and follow them pretty well in the private tracker scene.. Use thAt influence to help the community become more secure with basic OPSEC suggestion/requirements... One can only dream, haha.
:buds::plunder:
 
WitherSlick

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#17
I'm ecstatic to see this move. It's the reason I haven't moved any further into the PT world because most places I want to go now seem to want me to sign up from home connection like what did. I'm not OK with that.

Priv + VPN > Pub + VPN
I hope one day private trackers actually push security, maybe even make it a rule as users seems to read the rules and follow them pretty well in the private tracker scene.. Use thAt influence to help the community become more secure with basic OPSEC suggestion/requirements... One can only dream, haha.
:buds::plunder:
Consider this unikboss unikboss , public trackers based on magnet links keep no record of your downloads/uploads or your stats or any sort of userclass. They wouldn't need to keep track of what you were seeding. You'd have no reputation, you wouldn't even need a username.
 
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#18
Consider this unikboss unikboss , public trackers based on magnet links keep no record of your downloads/uploads or your stats or any sort of userclass. They wouldn't need to keep track of what you were seeding. You'd have no reputation, you wouldn't even need a username.
I don't m,ind it either way.. All the sites im on use different usernames, so the reputation stops at the site unless i connect the dots myself.

The only reason i prefer private over public is it seems that the quality tend to be better on private and I don't have to sift through so many shit uploads. In the end I'll use whatever is available, but that would be my ideal situation i guess.
 
Argonaut

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#19
Most trackers let us use a VPN or proxy as long as the IP is unique to us. I use to only browse trackers behind a VPN and downloaded only to a seedbox or VPN. It is actually significantly cheaper to make your own unique VPN with a private IP with bandwidth and as fast as a Gbps (or maxing out your home connection). Sometimes less than a few bucks a month. Private trackers behind a VPN would be the safest way to torrent. Would there be any demand on instructions on how to do this?
 
Haplea

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#20
I do agree that nobody will stop piracy. However for certain types of content I think it's only a matter of time. We've still only cracked what, one or two denuvo games? Video game piracy really will die except for older games. The DRM for video games will only get stronger and stronger. Already most new games require an internet connection to play at all.
The crackers are actually catching up with Denuvo. Sure, it takes time, but no DRM is unbeatable.

The question isn't whether the feds can take down a private tracker, the question is will it become safer to use a public tracker and VPN? If they start going after uploaders, FLS, and etc then it really might be wiser to move back to public trackers.
I don't think they will ever go after the users. That would be a lot of work and resources spent with little to no benefit.
 
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