THE National Security Agency spied on people who illegally downloaded music and films until it realised they were only sharing pop tunes by artists like Britney Spears.
Documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed details of NSA plans to snoop on people who used “BitTorrent” software to share copyrighted content.
BitTorrent was popular in the early 2000s and allowed music and film lovers to illegally share content.
This attracted the attention of the NSA, who wanted to know if it could gain valuable intelligence from spying on file-sharers.
But the spooks were shocked to see that people were only using the software to share their favourite tunes, rather than plans to destroy western civilisation.
“By searching our collection databases, it is clear that many targets are using popular file sharing applications,” a researcher from NSA wrote on its internet SIDtoday news website, The Intercept reported.
“But if they are merely sharing the latest release of their favourite pop star, this traffic is of dubious value (no offence to Britney Spears intended).”
The NSA claimed to have cracked into a piece of popular file sharing software called Kazaa, allowing them to find targets’ “e-mail addresses, country codes, user names, location of the downloaded files, and a list of recent searches”.
BitTorrent works by splitting files into tiny little chunks.
People can then downloaded films, music or anything else by downloading these small pieces from hundreds or even thousands of people at a time.
Online piracy is big news recently and content providers are finding new ways to target people who illegally stream sports event or movies.
If you were one of the millions of people illegally streaming the Mayweather and McGregor fight, for instance, you might have noticed mystery codes appearing during the broadcast.
The most likely explanation for the code is that it had been embedded into streams by a broadcaster licensed to show the fight as a method to track those illegally sharing the fight or using devices like the Kodi Box to watch it.
“[It could allow the broadcaster] to track the illicit stream back to a subscriber and/or a set-top box tied to a particular account,” TorrentFreak explained.
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