I Know What You Downloaded Last Summer

YouHaveDownloaded.com
I'm a good boy.

YouHaveDownloaded.com

An interesting site popped up near the end of last year called YouHaveDownloaded.com. You might not have visited it, or even heard of it, but if you’ve been using torrents, it might have heard of you.

The site is quite simple, it tracks torrents and the people (IP addresses) downloading them, much like copyright holders do (or hire companies to do for them). They claim to be tracking roughly 4%-6% of all torrent downloads and 20% of torrents from public trackers, like The Pirate Bay.

The difference to the copyright holders is that this site makes the information is collects public. You can see what it thinks the IP address you’re using has been used to torrent, or any other IP address you can think of. It might not be right, or it might be spot on.

This site just highlights what is going on all the time. Torrenting is a very public activity unless you’re making an effort to protect your privacy (like using a proxy or VPN from a reputable provider). Privacy is not the default on the interwebs.

IP addresses are more like PO Boxes than physical addresses — most people have dynamic IP addresses that regularly change, and add in the fact that some people have insecure Wi-Fi, the results on the site aren’t that accurate.

The site brings up an interesting statistic, especially if it’s true: “About 10% of all online shoppers, in the US, are torrent users as well.” In the future will advertisers link an IPs torrenting history to an advertising profile. Is this already happening?

The removal form

The site provides a form that supposedly enables people to request removal from the site. Don’t use it.

Previously it asked people to sign in using their Facebook accounts, and the CAPTCHA to get to the non-Facebook removal form didn’t work (ie. they wanted to link your data with a real name, cue warning bells). Now it seems like Facebook has revoked their access to use Facebook logins (they say Facebook logins are “Temporarily disabled due problems with Facebook”), so it brings up the removal form, which asks for a name and an email address.

I’m not saying this is what the people behind the site are doing, but this would be all the information they would need, in addition to the information they have on torrents associated with your IP address, to send an extortionate email your way. Or sell your data (probably not to copyright holders, because they hire people to do this for them already).

Here’s what their removal terms are (and yeah, the rest of the site is worded like this too):

Removal Terms
The Details: By submitting a request to have your download activity removed from our database, you are acknowledging that the activity was, in fact, carried out by yourself. This means that you are only submitting a request to have the details of your own personal activity deleted. Any unrecognized activity, such as files you did not download or do not remember downloading, are not — I repeat, are not to be included in your removal request. Why is this imperative? Well, we actually don’t have to explain ourselves…sorry.

The important part is that you understand these terms and conditions before hitting that beautiful button that will erase your criminal back ground, at least for now. Wait, you did remember to read these terms before making the decision to submit a removal request, right? Of course you did, everyone reads the fine print.

Other Important Things to Consider: We make no guarantees that your information will not appear on any other databases. We may have erased your bad behavior but, keep in mind that your data on this site is aggregated public domain. So, if by chance, another sadistic group of people decides to open a similar web site, we have no control over what they do with your information. Furthermore, if you continue to involve yourself in activity like this, your future download history will, without a doubt, appear in our database again and we may not be as nice about it next time.

If any part of these terms is still unclear, please visit your local elementary school and ask to repeat grades 3 through 5.”

Giving the people or company behind the site any more information about yourself is not a good idea, even if they claim that the site is a joke and you shouldn’t take it seriously.

And anyway, if your IP address is listed on the site, it must be because of the person that used it previously. Right?

The only redeeming feature of the site? You can look up the content companies that take people to court for illegal file sharing.

My Boss Is An Asshole

Facebook's privacy policy explained

Matt McKeon has an awesome graphic showing the scope creep of Facebook’s default privacy settings from 2005 to 2010. Check it out here.

Here’s six status updates I found using Openbook, a site that lets you to search through all public statuses. These people don’t like their bosses, but they might not realize that the rest of the world knows that now too. I wonder if their bosses know how to find their employees on Facebook?

Facebook boss hate 6Facebook boss hate 5Facebook boss hate 4Facebook boss hate 3Facebook boss hate 2Facebook boss hate 1

Image credit: weisunc

MPAA Propaganda

Look what I found at the end of the Hoyts ticket counter:

Respect Copyrights leaflet 1

Respect Copyrights leaflet 2

Respect Copyrights leaflet 3

Respect Copyrights leaflet 4It contains some interesting content.

“Remove unauthorised material from your computers”

“While not required under the new law, illegally obtained copyright protected material may still be file shared and therefore should be removed.”

Read: buy the files you downloaded illegally in the past. Helpful advice would be to remove peer-to-peer software from your computer if you’re not using it, or to stop sharing illegally obtained material if you’re doing so (eg. stop seeding).

“What are the risks of P2P file sharing?”

“P2P file sharing can expose your computer to harmful viruses, worms and trojan horses as well as annoying pop-up advertisements. There is also a real danger that private information on your computer may be accessible to others on P2P networks.”

Finding files through moderated sites (which can remove harmful torrents), reading the comments on torrents and having up-to-date anti-malware software all reduce this small risk of harm.

The “real danger” of private information being inadvertently shared is practically impossible with torrenting. LimeWire, FrostWire and friends were possibly deceptive about what user’s folders were actually being shared in the past, but now LimeWire is dead and FrostWire exclusively uses torrents, so it shouldn’t be a problem anymore.

But points for including the relatively unbiased URL of NetSafe’s The Copyright Law, albeit in tiny print down the very bottom on the back page.

Respect Copyrights.co.nz

This site is interesting, especially when you compare its list of legitimate places to buy movies and TV shows to the US version‘s list.

Our list for TV shows is basically the On Demand sites for the free-to-air TV stations, plus iSky. On the movies side we have iSky, the console networks and iTunes, which is also listed as having TV shows, but that’s not the case in New Zealand.

Respect Copyrights New Zealand legal alternatives

In comparison, the US site lists 43 legal alternatives, including iTunes (which you can actually get TV shows from in the US, or by using a US iTunes account), Hulu and Netflix.

Respect Copyrights US legal alternatives

And the MPAA wonder why people illegally download movies and TV shows in New Zealand?

On a plus, Respect Copyrights has removed that ridiculous clause from their Terms of Use stating that no one was allowed to link to their site without their “express written permission”. Their grasp of the internet is growing!

Spotify

Good news on the music front though. Music streaming subscription service Spotify is coming to Australia and New Zealand, possibly around February next year. The downside is that they’re now in bed with Facebook, so you’ll need a Facebook account to use it.

NZ Movies

Jonathan Hunt and Lance Wiggs illustrate how inadequate the sites MPAA lists are. MPAA, NZFACT and friends love harping on how people pirating movies like Boy are harming our movie industry in New Zealand.

But you still can’t download it legally from iTunes.

And I wouldn’t count on it being added either. Remember Sione’s Wedding? You know, the movie released in 2006 that cost “its investors an estimated $1 million” because it was pirated?

It’s not in the New Zealand iTunes store five years later.

Sione's Wedding New Zealand iTunes Store

But of course, it’s in the US iTunes store as Samoan Wedding.

Samoan Wedding United States iTunes Store

Nice one. Perhaps more kiwis would support their creative community, if, you know, you actually made it easy for them?

New Zealand Driver Licence Age Changes

Update: My exemption was approved. Here’s what I wrote.

On August 1st changes were made to the graduated driver licensing system in New Zealand. The minimum age to apply for a driver licence changed from 15 to 16. That change and that the restricted age was going up with it was fairly well publicized, but what wasn’t was that the age to get a full licence also changed. This Nelson Mail/Stuff article [now offline] doesn’t mention changes to the full licence age at all. This Timaru Herald article stops at the restricted changes too. The latest AA magazine, the Winter 2011 edition of AA Directions, only talks about the changes to the learner age. Not surprisingly, people are confused. I’ve written about the NZTA being unclear before.

Exemptions

Modarres Highway, TehranHowever, if someone already paid for their licence test before August 1st, they get around the changes. If you missed out by ~10 days, you have to apply for an exemption to get your licence in the previous time frame, which seems simple at first. The NZTA says they “will grant you an exemption,” basically if you would have been able to get your licence under the guidelines before the changes and if you have a “clean driving record.”

You have to pay a non-refundable $27.20 fee, which covers the processing(???) of the application.

Not everyone is a lawyer

The exemption form (PDF) contains some complicated questions. It seems unfair to expect teenagers to be able to competently answer them.

What have you done to mitigate the risks to road safety? and

How has the legislative requirement been substantially complied with and why is further compliance unnecessary? or
What action have you taken or provision have you made that is as effective or more effective than actual compliance with the legislative requirement? or
How are the legislated requirements clearly unreasonable or inappropriate in your case? or
What events have occurred to make the legislated requirements unnecessary or inappropriate in your case?

Can someone just write “I have a clean driving record?”

Publicity

With the Zero alcohol limit Facebook adtexting ban there were advertisements in newspapers, plus it was covered well by the media. A couple of days ago I saw a Facebook ad about the new blood alcohol limit for young drivers. Excellent. But I had no idea that the changes to the driving age could affect people on their restricted licence from moving to their full licence until after the changes came into effect, and I’m in that target audience.

“The NZTA issued a media statement and launched a new web page with information when the changes were announced, followed up by reminder statements over the past couple of weeks – the changes were flagged as one of the main news stories on our website homepage for several weeks.”

“The info has been available from the homepage of the NZTA website – www.nzta.govt.nz, as well as from www.practice.co.nz (site for restricted [sic] drivers and their parents), and www.safeteendriver.co.nz

The media didn’t seem to pick up on the affect the changes have on restricted drivers until after the changes. I think the new web page meant is Safe Teen Driver, which is a site for the parents of restricted drivers. Unless that site has been modified since the changes, it doesn’t seem like, after a quick browse, there is any mention of the changes. Teenagers aren’t checking the NZTA website. The Practice website is for learner drivers and my issue is the with lack of communication to restricted drivers about changes that affect them.

RRFC

Now I understand why articles end up saying something along the lines of “there was no response after repeated requests for comment.”

Questions I asked via email on whether the NZTA thought the exemption questions were reasonable to be asking young people, whether having a clean driving record is a good enough reason for getting an exemption, whether information about changes was advertised in newspapers, on TV and through social media, and what the money from the fee for applying for an exemption actually goes towards remain unanswered. I was directed to the NZTA website for full information on applying for exemptions.

I did, however, get sent statistics that in July there were around 17,500 learner licence tests conducted compared to around 10,000 in “a normal month” and that there was a 15% increase in 15-year-olds applying to sit learner licences since May when the change was announced. I’m not sure if this takes into account the fact that there were school holidays in July. The pass rate was also up from “the recent average of around 60%” to 67%. I asked for statistics on restricted and full licenses because I think there was a lack of attention given to those age changes, not the learner licence age change. I am yet to have been sent those statistics.

I have to apply for an exemption to get my full licence. What should I write, and what second question should I choose?

Image credit: Hamed Saber

Calendar Girls Cheerleaders

Last Saturday, Canada played the USA in an ice hockey match in Christchurch. Calendar Girls, a strip club, sponsored the event. They also paid $500 to All Star Cheerleaders to have them perform at the event, a team made up of mainly underage girls, including a nine-year-old (disclaimer: I know someone on the team.)

Announcements

‘“They were announced as All Star Cheerleaders brought to you by Calendar Girls,” [Jacqui Le Prou, Calendar Girls owner] said.’

I’ve been told that the team was referred to as the “Calendar Girls Cheerleaders” throughout the night. Online comments from those attending on the night support this too:

“We were at the Ice Hockey – and did think it was rather strange to be introducing the obviously young girls as ‘calendar girls’ – it was never mentioned that they were from a cheer leading club (although it was obvious they were trained in cheerleading) It wasnt just once they said it either – all night!!! If that was my daughter – i’d be FUMING.”—MT

“Did find it a little strange to have the young girls announced as Calender Girls Cheerleaders.”—Michael

Youth Olympic Games CheerleadingI’ve also been told that someone, I’m assuming from Calendar Girls, got a caption for a photo changed from the All Stars Cheerleaders to Calendar Girls Cheerleaders, that someone at The Press picked up on that caption for a photo of obviously young girls and that’s why a reporter started investigating.

Whoops

Above, Jacqui implies that the girls weren’t referred to as “Calendar Girls Cheerleaders”. However Calendar Girls’ social networking pages tell a different story.

Calendar Girls TwitterCalendar Girls TwitterEven more concerning is a photo of the Christchurch cheerleading team, including the nine-year-old girl, and I’m told Jacqui Le Prou’s young daughter, that was posted on Calendar Girls’ Auckland Facebook page. Faces blurred by me because they and their parents didn’t know where this photo was going to end up.

Calendar Girls Cheerleaders Facebook

Parents

“They don’t sign up for other people to pass them off as Calendar Girls, but then again their parents were all there and they didn’t pull them from their performance.”—The team’s coach, Claire Stackhouse.

The frustration is understandable. I’d say the reason why teams do events like this is to show that they actually have to put in work to pull off a performance, and to raise the profile of cheerleading to be more like a sport and less like something seedy. A comment on the Yahoo article hits the nail on the head on why the girls don’t have horrible parents:

“…cheerleading here bears little resemblance to the US or rugby style cheerleaders. Here it has morphed into something quite different, involving agility, skills, strength…”—Judy

I understand there was a second part to Claire’s quote that wasn’t included in the article (probably due to space constraints, understandable): during a performance that is supposed to be professional, it is very unprofessional to walk out half way through.

Auckland event

The same match was also played in Auckland and an All Star Cheerleading team performed there also.

“[Jacqui] Le Prou said the cheerleaders at the Auckland event were between 18 and 24.”

I’ve been told there were cheerleaders as young as 14 12 on the Auckland team. This also prompts the question: if Calendar Girls is really against using underage girls to promote their club (“she sent me a nine-year-old, which I wasn’t very happy about”) why did they not pull the Christchurch performance when they became aware that there were people on the team under 18, including a nine-year-old?

Why cheerleaders?

People familiar with cheerleading have said that cheerleading teams always have members of varying ages and that it would be near impossible to find a cheerleading team that only has people aged 18 and over in it. I question why Calendar Girls didn’t hire 18+ models, promo girls or use some of their own staff if they wanted to promote their club.

Whether someone involved was aware of what Calendar Girls wanted to introduce the team as or not still leaves the question as to why the team was referred to as the Calendar Girls Cheerleaders when the team was clearly made up of underage girls.

Image credit: Eustaquio Santimano

The National Interest of Foreign Espionage

A van was crushed by rubble following the February Canterbury earthquake, containing Israeli tourists. One of them, Ofer Benyamin Mizrahi, was killed instantly. Michal Friedman, Liron Sadeh and Guy Yurdan escaped. It’s been revealed that Israeli involvement after the quake has been investigated by the SIS and the police.

Fact checking

What appears to be the original Southland Times article that broke the investigation seems to have been poorly fact checked and shows a lack of editorial oversight. Shemi Tzur, Israeli’s ambassador in the South Pacific is said to have flown from Australia, where he is based, except a quick Google search shows that he is actually based in Wellington.

The same article talks about a piece of suspected Russian malware named “agent.btz” and says that “attempts to remove the malware have so far been unsuccessful”, which gives the impression that the computers of the United States Military are still infected. The next part of the sentence states that “new, more potent variations of agent.btz are still appearing”, so what is probably meant is that attempts to eliminate the malware out of existence have been unsuccessful, which isn’t surprising considering the nature of malware and software in general.

Red flags

9000 passports!James Bond cameras

The Southland Times article says that Ofer Mizrahi “was reportedly found to be carrying at least five passports.” John Key said “according to his information, Mizrahi was found with only one passport”, of European origin.

The group of three that left Christchurch gave Israeli representatives his Israeli passport. So that makes at least two passports.

Shemi Tzur says that he was handed Ofer’s effects and they contained “more than one passport.” Does that makes at least three passports or does this include the Israeli passport handed off at the airport?

He says it’s common for Israelis to have dual citizenship because Israeli passports aren’t welcome in some countries, which is understandable. However that doesn’t explain why Ofer was traveling with both/multiple passports—I am an expert thanks to watching Border Security on TV and conclude that less eyebrows would be raised at an airport if, when searched, someone wasn’t in the possession of more than one passport.

12 hours

Passport stamps

Within 12 hours of the quake the three remaining Israelis had evacuated Christchurch, driven to the airport by Shemi Tzur himself.

This raised eyebrows because they left Ofer behind in the van, but in their defense there was nothing they could have done and it wasn’t like they were leaving someone injured behind. Guy Yurdan, one of the three, said that Ofer was killed instantly.

The advice from many countries to citizens in Christchurch would have been to get out of there as soon as possible. The potential lack of accommodation, food, and water, plus the risk of further aftershocks would have supported their decision to leave as quickly as possible.

A mysterious seventh Israeli

Concerns were raised about a “mysterious seventh Israeli” who was in New Zealand illegally and was reported missing after the earthquake, but weeks later was reported to have left the country. Not sure whether there was anything suspicious about the person apart from their visa situation.

Five Facebook likes

A Facebook tribute page for Ofer came to the attention of investigators because it only had five likes over four months (now 32). Apparently many Israelis don’t have social network accounts. Perhaps those on Facebook who knew Ofer didn’t know of the page? It seems a stretch to say that this is suspicious.

Four phone calls

It’s been reported that Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu phoned John Key four times on the day of the earthquake. John Key says that they only actually spoke once in “those first days.” It seems reasonable that a Prime Minister is hard to get hold of, especially during a state of emergency. I’m not sure what the significance of prime ministers calling each other is, I assume representatives from many countries spoke to John Key as a result of the earthquake.

Two search and rescue teamsMission control

There was reportedly one Israeli search and rescue team but then there were two? Either way it seems at least one either wasn’t allowed access to the red zone or was removed from the red zone by armed personnel. According to Shemi Tzur, a team was sent by the parents of Ofer Levy (other Ofer?) and Gabi Ingel, two Israelis who died in the earthquake.

The article says “Israeli families reacted that way when their children needed help anywhere in the world, often because it was demanded by insurance companies.” Insurance companies often demand that families hire and fly to a foreign country private search and rescue teams when search and rescue is already underway by the country?

Strange.

Perhaps stranger is Hilik Magnus, who runs the search and rescue company in question, Magnus International Search & Rescue:

“He served in the Israel Defence Forces in an elite paratrooper battalion specializing in special operations. He fought in the Attrition War, first lebanon war and the Yom Kippur War, remained a reserve officer for twenty years and served also in the intelligence community.”

Stranger?

Their team entered the red zone “accompanied by police, only to retrieve the personal effects of two people who died.” “There was only one rescue team and it was allowed inside the red zone to accompany police to retrieve backpacks belonging to Mr Levy and Mr Ingel.”

One Israel Civil Defense Chief

The Southland Times article says “In the hours after the 6.3 quake struck: Israel’s civil defence chief left Israel for Christchurch.” The New Zealand Herald reports that Matan Vilnai did visit Christchurch, but nine days later. And not from Israel, but from Australia where he was for a visit.

This doesn’t seem suspicious.

A groups of forensic analysts

An Israeli forensic analysis team sent by the Israeli government worked on victim identification in the morgue. A security audit of the national police computer database was ordered after someone connected that the analysts could have accessed it. The police say that their system is secure. Someone from the SIS says that it could be compromised with a USB drive:

“An SIS officer said it would take only moments for a USB drive to be inserted in a police computer terminal and for a program allowing remote backdoor access to be loaded.”—Stuff

It’s questionable why USB access would even be enabled on computers that have access to such confidential material.

Why New Zealand?

Intelligence

Gordon Thomas, who has written about Mossad says that Mossad trainees, possibly picked during compulsory military service, were usually planted overseas in groups of four. He says that the CIA and MI6 have offices in Auckland and have “held high-level meetings with New Zealand spy bosses”. They want to know what sparked the SIS investigation, what investigations were carried out and what passports the group possessed. He thinks New Zealand is a credible Mossad target because al Qaeda cells could expand into the Pacific Rim. Israel would want to know what our intelligence agencies know, what they are sharing and how good they are at getting information.

He says that Mossad has a reputation for using students as agents and that using two couples is “standard Mossad operation style. The reason they have a man and a woman … it’s easy to pass unnoticed, unchallenged, and the woman acts as back-up.”Passport

Passports

New Zealand passports are readily accepted around the world. Anyone gaining one who had nefarious purposes would likely face no contest at a border. Paul Buchanan, who has worked at the Pentagon says that it’s unlikely the four were Mossad agents because of their age and the apparent low-level task of passport fraud they were undertaking, but they might have been recruits operating as sayanins, the Hebrew word for helper. He says that after the September earthquake, Christchurch may have been seen as a good target to get names of New Zealanders to use for false passports.

 

The three survivors from the van gave an interview to Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, days after the earthquake. It would seem unlike spies to put themselves out in the public eye like that, but maybe that’s reverse psychology. Who knows.

Image credits: Ian Rutherford, Ludovic Bertron, J Aaron Farr, Tom Raftery