AT&T Says It Can Accurately Track P2P-Shared Content

TorrentFreak has discovered a patent filed by AT&T that details a technology to accurately measure the flow of both infringing and legitimate file-sharing traffic on P2P networks like BitTorrent. Thus, this system enables AT&T to detect pirated downloads and combat congestion on its network. Whether the company is actually using this technology or not is unknown at this point.

Titled "Method and apparatus for automated end to end content tracking in peer to peer environments", AT&T's patent was filed in December 2009, published on June 4, 2013, and awarded to AT&T's Intellectual Property division. It focuses primarily on torrents which are gathered by crawling search engines and additional torrent-focused websites through RSS feeds.

"Content distribution using peer-to-peer protocols (P2P) accounts for a large percentage of traffic generated on the Internet," AT&T states. "The content may be legitimately or illegitimately distributed via P2P. For example, some content may be legitimately purchased and downloaded by users via P2P. However, some content may be pirated and illegally copied and distributed P2P violating copyright laws and reducing revenue for the content producers and distributors."

According to the patent, the system scans each content title that is uploaded and downloaded via torrent on the network. Titles that are downloaded over a predetermined threshold will be added to a list, ordered from most popular to least popular, in the company's database. It then downloads the actual torrent to verify that the content listed inside (content signature) verifies with the content title stored in the database.

The system can also identify each unique user that has downloaded the content title in the list. It then pretends to be a torrent client and contacts the user's own client to request a download. A successful connection means that the unique user has actually downloaded the content title. Busted.

Based on the system's description, AT&T believes this patent is the answer to the current problem of accurately monitoring content shared on P2P networks.

"[Currently] if an individual wants to track a particular content title that is distributed via P2P, the individual must track content on a single content title basis," AT&T states. "In other words, the individual must know ahead of time which content title they want to monitor and perform the monitoring manually for each content title. This becomes a very time consuming and laborious process."

The full patent can be read here.

Kevin started taking PCs apart in the 90s when Quake was on the way and his PC lacked the required components. Since then, he’s loved all things PC-related and cool gadgets ranging from the New Nintendo 3DS to Android tablets. He is currently a contributor at Digital Trends, writing about everything from computers to how-to content on Windows and Macs to reviews of the latest laptops from HP, Dell, Lenovo, and more. 

  • Mike Honcho
    Well, I know which ISP I'm never going to have!
  • Privacy on the net is a myth to begin with. It was only a matter of time.
  • danwat1234
    OOOOh "There are 0 Comments." !!
  • fightingslu
    Good thing there are plenty of good VPN's around.
  • fatboytyler
    VPNs and configure your torrent client to block every incoming connection known to be associated with AT&T. Bam. Once again you say screw you to the spying agencies. Pieces of garbage is what they are...
  • somebodyspecial
    Well it's good that I don't use torrents then as they are against my religion. LOL.

    And for anything you don't want somebody knowing you're searching for, just use something like TOR or a VPN. VPN is faster out of the gate but costs $7-15 per month, while TOR just keeps getting better the more of us use it and turn on features that add to the network's bandwidth. Set yourself up as a Relay, even if for only 50kb/s etc. Anything helps speed the whole network up.
    Don't like the govt watching you? USE TOR! IT's free.
  • scout_03
    This means legitimate company will be watch if they use p2p to transfert files to there costumer,this include motherboard maker and other even the game maker ,The isp provider dont want to invest in the system to fulfill the need of there costumer but to reduce the band with so they could get more money without giving better service .What all those legitimate maker think about this new system from AT&T i would be nice to hear from them .
  • Someone Somewhere
    It then downloads the actual torrent

    Cool. Can we sue them now?
  • KodaP
    In other news, ATT internet subscribers have switched to Comcast Cable!
  • Christopher1
    I'm thinking that they are lying. If their 'technology' can determine who is on the other end of a wireless network connection? Then they are using the Eye of Sauron, which only exists in books.