An Invasion of Privacy

Posted: February 13, 2008 in Misc Stuff

Today started like any other typical weekday and I thought it was going end in typical fashion as well, however I was mistaken.  My wife and I received a letter from our ISP, Charter which indicated that they had been contacted by an “Internet detective” company named BayTSP.  The letter further stated that the movie “There Will Be Blood” was downloaded using one of the Torrent programs and that this activity had been traced to our IP address.  This is particularly interesting to the both of us for a couple of reasons.  The first reason being, my wife and I don’t download movies.  The second and perhaps more important aspect is that I have don’t even have a Torrent program installed on either of my computers nor did I during the end of January, which the letter indicates is the time this “crime” occurred.

When my wife first made me aware of this letter we where on our way to dinner.  I was and still am consumed with anger and frustration over this matter.  There are so many things wrong with this scenario I’m not even sure where to begin, but I’ll try.  Initially I became angry because as I stated previously neither I nor my wife download movies and we don’t use any type of Torrent programs for anything.  Our kids are 2 and 6 years old and are incapable of using a computer, neither one of the can even read yet for that matter so there is no possible way, whether our IP address says so or not that anyone in this house downloaded this movie.  The letter we received further stated that as a Charter account holder we will be held responsible for this download even if we didn’t do it, simply because our IP address is listed as the offending address. 

What really baffles me here is how the account holder can be held liable for something they didn’t do.  When an individual buys a gun lawfully, then decides to commit homicide using his/her newly purchased gun, who’s responsible, the owner of the gun shop or the person who murdered innocent victims?  There are those out in the world that will undoubtedly say that the owner of the gun shop is the one who should be held responsible, though I am fairly confident that the majority of people would say that the individual who pulled the trigger is the one responsible for this crime.  I believe that my analogy makes my point in this matter.  I don’t know that it’s possible to hijack someones Internet connection or use their IP address but something along these lines has to have happened as we never downloaded this movie.  I think it would be a injustice of gargantuan proportions to hold the owners of an account responsible for something they have no knowledge of and no control over.

After digesting this unnerving news and re-reading the letter from BayTSP I found myself becoming increasingly angry at Charter, BayTSP, our government, and the trampling of my rights.  There are always going to be those people in the world who believe that as long as one has nothing to hide, one should not be opposed to someone looking into their business and personal affairs.  I happen to be someone who strongly opposes that position and believe that without probable cause no one should be peering into your home no matter whether that be through your Internet connection, or even your living room window.  I am not going to discuss my opinions of the DMCA and how it blatantly violates/ignores fair use policies or how it gives authority to vilotate our right to corporations with huge amounts of money but these types of problems can be traced back to that awful piece of legislature.

Companies like BayTSP and our government feel that it is the responsibility of ISP’s to police their clients and through the use of money, political pressure, and strong arming, the ISP’s have fallen into line.  Bottom line people….when any persons, individuals or part of a corporate entity begin peering into your browsing and download history it’s an invasion of privacy plain and simple.  So holding this opinion makes me an advocate of piracy and other illegal activities right?  Nothing could be further from the truth in fact.  Though the claims made by organizations like the RIAA and movie studios are over inflated and driven by greed, I don’t support or believe that piracy is something that’s “ok”.  In fact I am all in favor of pirates being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law however these companies no longer focus on what I call “true pirates”, which are those individuals who obtain an illegal copy of a movie or music and then make copies of said materials for the purpose of profit and mass distribution.  The movie and music industry and their cronies have now turned their focus on what Microsoft once called casual pirates, the little guy in a dorm room or in a home office who downloads a few songs or movies, and while this is wrong too these industries sue the said individuals for ungodly amounts of money claiming damages that are again, overinflated for the sole purpose of making an example of and bullying the “little guy”.  Scare tactics are common these days and are used by both these industries and our government as tools to manipulate the general public all the while keeping them in fear of those with more money.

Should someone have the right to view what’s on our hard drive or even view our browsing and download history?  I believe they should when there is probable cause and when it’s a crime that hurts more than someones pocket book (no one at the top of those industries is hurting by the way).  Companies like BayTSP act as Internet police and though they are neither the law nor the police they act in a way that would indicate they have been granted the same authorities and rights as a member of law enforcement.  I wasn’t born yesterday, and not even the day before yesterday so I’m not naive and have been aware that our online activities have been monitored from time to time.  It never really hits home though until it happens to you.  I feel as though my right to privacy has been thrown out the window and in addition to that BayTSP asked us to respond to their claims through their website as though they where the police asking me for my statement.  As I’m not guilty of the claims they made against me, I responded because I felt it was the right thing to do.  I was initially hesitant though because I kept asking myself “who are these guys, who the hell are they to tell my ISP or me anything”.

BayTSP is the maker of protection software that major music and movie studios can purchase to help “protect” their works (not the artists as they’d have you believe) from the people who are single handedly bringing down both industries.  In reality software and companies like this are hired to act as law enforcement agencies and track people who they believe are engaged in illegal activities.  My question is, why is this legal?  They claim they watermark files etc which help them track the downloading of such things but they have no right to follow my web habits nor does my ISP have the right to do that and quite frankly I find it revolting that the law holds ISP’s and web providers responsible for the way their customers behave.  What ever happened to personal accountability and responsibility?  I guess with enough money and political influence you can trample the right of the common man and get away just about anything.

What I find even more frustrating however is the fact that this type of thing not only happens but that it continues to become more and more prevalent as time passes.  People are so easily fooled by propaganda machines and are being trained to believe that these types of actions are ok because it allows criminals to be caught and punished.  The reality of the situation is that while yes, some pirates are caught most of the individuals that get caught and prosecuted are causal pirates and not the ones who mass reproduce and distribute these things.  Furthermore the fines and penalties imposed on such people are generally over the top, bloated, and obscene.  My point?  The punishment is not befitting of the crime.  The fines and penalties thrown at offenders are akin to giving a car their the death penalty.  When I was younger I used to believe that power lied with people and that may have been true when I was fresh out of high school but nearly 20 years later this is no longer the case, if it ever was.  These industries and their greed driven motives will be allowed and encouraged by others in power to continue to their witch hunt until all of our rights have been thoroughly eroded or we’re made to believe somehow that we have to give up the most basic human rights in order to be safe, and to protect us from criminals as well as punish those who break the law.

As I’m passionate about this topic I could go on and write about this all night but instead I’ll sum things up.

  • Regardless of what two people send each other over the Internet no government agency, hired watchdog group, software, or industry agent has the right to patrol your Internet traffic or even look at your download history.  When there is probable cause for things such as a plot to detonate a nuclear device, shoot up a local post office, engage in the making of or the distribution of kiddie porn, or even a plan to murder someone, then yes authorities such as the local police, FBI, and even CIA should be looking at such things but never should a company like BayTSP have the right to watch what you do online from the privacy of your own home and no ISP should ever be held accountable for how their customers utilize their bandwidth.  I pose this question next.  When will it become acceptable to have government or corporate cameras and monitoring devices present in your home?  They are essentially doing this now the only thing missing is the equipment I mentioned.  I don’t care what files are moving from one computer to another, that should be our right and while pirates should be punished the methods in which they are pursued and caught need to be changed as to not destroy what little privacy and rights we have left.
  • Those with the money have all the power.  Large corporate entities have money and money funds political campaigns and helps atrocious laws push through Congress and the Senate.  It also helps pay for lawyers that crush the little guy and put fear into these same people who then feel helpless and therefore begin to believe that they got what they deserved and that the privacy and rights they used to know are gone for good.  As long as human beings put their monetary gains before everything else this kind of thing will continue to occur.  The rich get richer, the middle class has all but disappeared, and the poor get poorer and continue to lose their right to fight back and are made examples of when one attempts to stand up for what’s right.

I’ve never considered myself to be any type of activist but tonight’s news really got under my skin and I feel like I need to play some kind of role in the fight against this type of thing.  I don’t expect to change anything but I want everyone to be aware of what’s going on out there.

  1. Zev says:

    I received a similar letter yesterday. Irony has it, I too was at dinner when I excused myself to check my email on the phone. I let them know that it was BS and my wireless isn’t secure with a p/w. I told them the only thing on my comp is my history of a trailer we watched 6 weeks ago. lol They closed the case. I also read that they get all your info by clicking the site in the letter. If that is true then that would be entrapment. Same as Bay TSP putting up stuff on sites to catch people d/ling them in the first place.

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