Tag Archives: google

All DMCA Notices Filed Against TorrentFreak in 2019 Were Bogus

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/all-dmca-notices-filed-against-torrentfreak-in-2019-were-bogus-191231/

Every year we publish around 800 articles here at TorrentFreak, all of them covering copyright, piracy, privacy and closely related issues.

Over the course of 2019, many have detailed the efforts of content companies and their anti-piracy partners who have filed lawsuits, copyright complaints, and DMCA-type takedown notices to have content removed from allegedly-infringing sites.

In many cases those legal efforts were warranted but there have been some obvious screw-ups too.

Time and again, anti-piracy companies have overstepped the mark, attempting to have legitimate content removed. And, yet again, TorrentFreak.com has also been targeted by companies, their bots, or even individuals who simply can’t tell the difference between pirated content and legitimate news and informational pieces.

In previous years we’ve received erroneous complaints from the likes of Amazon, Electronic Arts, Disney, Entertainment One, Vertigo Films, Magnolia Pictures, NBCUniversal, Paramount, and even BBC Worldwide. This year we can add more.

According to Google’s Transparency Report, in 2019 Google received a further 11 DMCA takedown notices targeting our domain, sent on behalf of Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures, and sundry others. All of them were completely bogus.

In January, we were accused of infringing the rights of Dreamworks, among others, after simply mentioning that a DVD Screener copy of the movie Green Book was the 9th most popular movie downloaded using BitTorrent during the first week of 2019.

In March, a complaint sent on behalf of Columbia Pictures told Google that an archive page referencing Boss Baby downloads (dating back to 2016) was somehow infringing their rights.

In April we were the dubious recipient of two complaints, both from the Estonian Organization for Copyright Protection. The first claimed that we were offering the CBS movie Five Feet Apart, simply because we have a content tag on the site mentioning torrent site YTS.

The second claimed we’d somehow helped to distribute the Finnish movie The Eternal Road after publishing a list of the top 10 most popular torrent sites of 2016.

After a whole month of peace, Google received yet another bogus complaint about TF in June, this time from Japanese company ‘유니콘미디어” stating that we were offering the Illumination/Universal Pictures title The Secret Life of Pets for download. We were not.

In July we received two complaints, both on behalf of Sony Pictures. The first because we referenced the movie Inferno and the second because we did the same for the movie Breathe.

The complaint filed against us in August was even more absurd than the others. Fourteen years ago, back in 2005 when TorrentFreak was in its formative years, we published a list of public domain movies that are not only free but also legal to download and share.

However, according to a complaint filed by movie company Vertigo Releasing, that article included pirate links to the 2019 movie ‘The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil’. Why? We have no idea but there were a total of five public domain movies in that list that included either the word ‘cop’ or ‘devil’ in their titles.

A DMCA notice filed with Google in October set pulses racing. According to an adult content creator called ‘LittleSubGirl’, our 2018 article explaining how Netflix was dominating Internet traffic infringed her copyrights. It’s really not the kind of dominating we had in mind when the piece was written, honest.

In November a shockingly broad notice was sent to Google targeting not only us but Facebook, Beatport, TrustPilot, RottenTomatoes and a swathe of others. It claimed that we were offering John Wick 3 for download but was immediately flagged by Google as suspect.

“We believe that an impostor or someone else abusing the process submitted this request. We report it here for the sake of completeness and to provide a view into one kind of abuse of the DMCA process,” the company advised.

Finally, December brought yet another complaint from a company that can’t tell the difference between a news report detailing the most popular titles being shared on BitTorrent and a pirate site offering links to the same.

Grand total: 11 DMCA complaints filed in 2019, all of them completely bogus.

See you next year folks….

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

ToTok Is an Emirati Spying Tool

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2019/12/totok_is_an_emi.html

The smartphone messaging app ToTok is actually an Emirati spying tool:

But the service, ToTok, is actually a spying tool, according to American officials familiar with a classified intelligence assessment and a New York Times investigation into the app and its developers. It is used by the government of the United Arab Emirates to try to track every conversation, movement, relationship, appointment, sound and image of those who install it on their phones.

ToTok, introduced only months ago, was downloaded millions of times from the Apple and Google app stores by users throughout the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. While the majority of its users are in the Emirates, ToTok surged to become one of the most downloaded social apps in the United States last week, according to app rankings and App Annie, a research firm.

Apple and Google have removed it from their app stores. If you have it on your phone, delete it now.

Sky on a Mission to Purge Hundreds of Pirate IPTV Sites From Google

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/sky-on-a-mission-to-purge-hundreds-of-pirate-iptv-sites-from-google-191215/

When a massive police operation in Italy took down IPTV management outfit Xtream-Codes in September 2019, a large proportion of the pirate market was thrown into turmoil.

According to figures obtained by TorrentFreak from network equipment company Sandvine, overall pirate streaming traffic dropped by 50%. But three months is an awfully long time on the Internet and today the market seems to have largely recovered, with providers and sellers finding alternative solutions and users relatively happy once again.

Nevertheless, when chaos reigned back in September, there can be little doubt that customers left high and dry turned to search engines in order to find a replacement. It’s certainly not the best strategy to find a reliable supplier but if Comcast-owned broadcaster Sky has anything to do with it, it won’t be an easy option either.

Back in March, we reported that the broadcaster had been sending thousands of takedown notices to Google in an effort to remove IPTV suppliers’ entire websites from the search provider’s indexes. That effort has not only continued but also been stepped up in recent weeks.

Just as an example, a notice sent in November contains 495 URLs and attempts to delist the entire websites of three suppliers – miglioriptv.net, iptvthebest.ws, migliorstreaming.net – from Google. But that is just the tip of a pretty large iceberg.

The delisting efforts are considerable and target many thousands of URLs (e.g 1,2,3,4). The majority of notices were previously filed on behalf of Sky in Italy but Sky in the UK are also getting in on the act.

As the notice above shows, Sky UK goes down the classic route of claiming that the sites in question directly infringe its rights by providing access to its licensed content. While that may be the case in some instances, it’s far more likely that the services use completely different URLs to deliver that content so at best, the above domains might be considered as facilitating infringement, rather than directly infringing Sky’s rights.

However, when it comes to Sky Italy’s notices, the company has a more detailed approach that may prove even more effective.

“The reported sites illegally provide external links with which users can access and/or download unauthorized copyrighted contents, exclusively owned by broadcaster Sky Italia,” the notices state.

“Reported URLs pages are using without any authorization copyrighted images and logos owned by Sky Italia, which are used to promote and selling unauthorized IPTV services or video-on-demand library with show schedules or video catalogs owned by Sky Italia.”

In this context, the use of Sky graphics to promote and sell pirate IPTV packages to consumers is a slam dunk for the company when it comes to the DMCA. Hundreds of platforms not only use official logos in this manner but also images of Sky box controllers, culled from Sky’s own sites.

Having sites delisted from Google on those grounds alone should be relatively simple for the broadcaster. Copyright infringement of logos and graphics is much easier to determine than IPTV seller site URLs that may (but probably do not) contain any copyright-infringing material.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Google’s Top UK “Where to Watch” Searches Weren’t a Piracy Concern in 2019

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/googles-top-where-to-watch-searches-werent-a-piracy-concern-in-2019-191211/

That Google knows every detail of what its users search for is no secret – after all, the company itself processes all of the requests.

Armed with this data, Google publishes its annual ‘Year in Search‘ report, the latest of which appeared yesterday. From our perspective, there were very few – if any – piracy-related aspects to report, something which should be encouraging to rightsholders.

However, after the BBC published its take on Google’s UK search statistics, noting that several questions in the “How to” category were directed at how to watch sports events and TV shows, the Federation Against Copyright Theft took to Twitter to issue a warning.

“Whether it’s a re-stream on social media, a piracy site, or using a TV-connected device, avoiding official providers to access content is illegal,” FACT wrote, linking to the BBC article.

Of course, it is FACT’s job to draw attention to such things but we wondered, given that Google is quite specific about the top titles searched for in 2019, whether Google’s search results were worthy of particular panic. Or, indeed, whether “where to watch” searches should always be considered dangerous and piracy related. But first, some background.

Over the past several years, copyright holders and anti-piracy groups have regularly complained that Google and other search engines help people find content online in a way that prioritizes pirated over legitimate content.

That isn’t the company’s intention, of course, but there have been numerous instances of pirate sites appearing higher in searches than those offering licensed content. In the UK, Google and various industry players agreed to tackle this and similar issues with the signing of a voluntary anti-piracy agreement back in 2017.

So, when placed alongside these top “how to” searches, has it worked?

#1: How to watch Champions League Final

This search clearly related to the match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool from which the latter emerged victorious, two goals to nil. However, the related Google search is particularly interesting since all of the top results showed users how to watch the match for free.

While that might sound like a cause for concern, these results linked exclusively to completely legal streams offered via established broadcasters. Clearly, the incentive to pirate had been mostly eliminated by giving consumers what they want.

#2: How to watch Game of Thrones

As one of the most popular shows in living memory, it’s no surprise that Game of Thrones appears in Google’s top search lists for the UK. In past years, this kind of search would’ve likely displayed ‘pirate’ results prominently but that is no longer the case. In our tests we had to go through several pages of Google results with links to either buy the show or articles detailing how to watch the show legally first. Pirate results were not prominent.

#5: How to watch KSI vs. Logan

Given the controversy surrounding this pair of YouTube celebrities, searches on how to watch the fight were bound to score highly. However, a search for the fight yet again yielded pages and pages of legitimate sources or articles detailing how to access the bout legally.

#10: How to watch Chernobyl

The results displayed following a “where to watch Chernobyl” search are very similar to those that are returned following a similar Game of Thrones query. One has to skip through pages and pages of legitimate results to find any pirate sources and, on the way, the emphasis to go legal is clear.

The legal choices, as they appear in Google’s results, are as follows: YouTube, Google Play, Amazon, NowTV, HBO, Sky, Hulu, iTunes, Showmax, DirectTV, HBONordic, HBOGo, and Verizon. Admittedly, not all of those are available to UK users, but that’s four pages deep into the results and not one pirate link in sight.

Conclusion

While this is a very limited sample, there does appear to have been a notable change in the way that Google displays its results in the UK when faced with a basic query of “where to watch X”. There is now a pretty clear bias towards legitimate sources in results presented in the first few pages.

Of course, those that wish to refine their searches to actively seek out pirated content will have more immediate success, that’s the way searches work. However, it’s now more difficult to argue that users will be diverted to pirated sources when they’re seeking out legal options, at least for the samples listed above.

It’s worth noting, however, that pirate users’ viewing habits are probably shifting. There is now less reliance on search engines and more emphasis on apps and tools that are designed to produce infringing results by default, which is the exact opposite of what Google offers in respect of the above.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Google Sees DMCA Anti-Circumvention Notices Skyrocket

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/google-sees-dmca-anti-circumvention-notices-skyrocket-191208/

A few weeks ago, we reported that the RIAA targeted several YouTube converters and downloaders by sending relatively rare takedown requests to Google.

Instead of the usual DMCA copyright notices, the music group asked the search engine to remove various URLs for alleged violations of the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision.

This proved to be quite effective. After taking down the many links to FLVTO, 2Conv, Y2Mate, and Yout, the RIAA expanded its scope to other streamrippers. In total, the music group targeted hundreds of URLs in a few dozen notices.

And the RIAA is not alone. Other copyright holders are using the anti-circumvention route as well. This includes game companies such as Nintendo and Rockstar Games, as well as Netflix.

One upside for rightsholders is that there’s no official counter-notification option. This means that affected sites can’t easily complain when they are mistakenly targeted. However, there’s another major benefit as well.

Some sites that don’t infringe any copyrights directly, can be seen as anti-circumvention tools. This gives rightsholders an extra option to remove URLs. To illustrate this, we only have to look at the RIAA’s recent takedown efforts.

When the music group sent a standard DMCA takedown request to Google for several streamripper URLs in November, the search engine didn’t take these offline. However, a similar DMCA circumvention notice that was sent a few days later was successful.

This may be why there has been quite an increase in these anti-circumvention notices lately. While Google doesn’t list these by default in its transparency report, we used the Lumen database to find out how many notices were sent this year.

At the time of writing, Google has received 6,281 DMCA anti-circumvention notices in 2019. These notices can contain multiple links, sometimes even hundreds. The number of notices has increased significantly compared to last year when 2,960 notices came in.

In 2017 there were even fewer anti-circumvention notices, 921 to be precise.

While today’s numbers are still very modest, there’s definitely a visible upward trend that hasn’t been reported before. This increase is all the more interesting because Google now receives fewer standard copyright takedown notices.

TorrentFreak reached out to the RIAA to hear more about their motivation to use anti-circumvention notices, but the music group declined to comment on the issue.

Considering the effectiveness of their campaign to remove steamrippers from Google’s search results, we expect the efforts to continue. And when more rightsholders discover this option, we expect the number of anti-circumvention notices to grow further still.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Fooling Voice Assistants with Lasers

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2019/11/fooling_voice_a.html

Interesting:

Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are vulnerable to attacks that use lasers to inject inaudible­ — and sometimes invisible­ — commands into the devices and surreptitiously cause them to unlock doors, visit websites, and locate, unlock, and start vehicles, researchers report in a research paper published on Monday. Dubbed Light Commands, the attack works against Facebook Portal and a variety of phones.

Shining a low-powered laser into these voice-activated systems allows attackers to inject commands of their choice from as far away as 360 feet (110m). Because voice-controlled systems often don’t require users to authenticate themselves, the attack can frequently be carried out without the need of a password or PIN. Even when the systems require authentication for certain actions, it may be feasible to brute force the PIN, since many devices don’t limit the number of guesses a user can make. Among other things, light-based commands can be sent from one building to another and penetrate glass when a vulnerable device is kept near a closed window.

RIAA Delists YouTube Rippers From Google Using Rare Anti-Circumvention Notices

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/riaa-delists-youtube-rippers-from-google-using-rare-anti-circumvention-notices-191108/

While music piracy has reduced in recent years due to the popularity of platforms such as Spotify, the major labels remain highly concerned over so-called steam-ripping services.

These sites allow users to enter a YouTube URL, for example, and then download audio from the corresponding video, mostly in MP3 format. This means that users can download music and store it on their own machines, negating the need to revisit YouTube for the same content. This, the major labels say, deprives content creators of streaming revenue.

Tackling this issue has become one of the industry’s highest anti-piracy priorities. Previously, YouTube-MP3 – the largest ripping site at the time – was shut down following legal action by the major labels. Since then, lawsuits have been filed against other platforms but the battle is far from over and recently a new strategy appears to have been deployed.

A pair of DMCA notices appeared on the Lumen Database late October, having been filed there by Google. The sender of both notices is listed as the RIAA, acting on behalf of its members including Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group.

They are worded slightly differently but each target the homepages of five major YouTube-ripping sites – 2conv.com, flvto.biz, y2mate.com, yout.com, and youtubeconverter.io. Both contain the following key claim:

“To our knowledge, the URLs provide access to a service (and/or software) that circumvents YouTube’s rolling cipher, a technical protection measure, that protects our members’ works on YouTube from unauthorized copying/downloading,” the notices read.

Unlike regular DMCA takedown notices filed with Google, these notices do not appear in Google’s Transparency report. However, Google has acted on them by delisting the homepages of all five platforms from its search results. Other URLs for the platforms still appear, but their homepages are all gone.

The notices are listed on the Lumen Database in the anti-circumvention section, meaning that the RIAA-labeled complaints demand action from Google under the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA, rather than demanding the takedown of URLs based on the claim they carry infringing music titles.

The ‘technical measures’ allegedly being circumvented (such as the “rolling cypher” referenced in the complaints) are those put in place by YouTube, which in turn protect the copyrighted content of the labels.

TorrentFreak contacted the RIAA yesterday, requesting comment and seeking additional information on the basis for the notices. Unfortunately, the industry group declined to make any further comment on any aspect of the complaints.

Nevertheless, the RIAA and its members are no strangers to the claim that by circumventing YouTube’s ‘technological measures’, so-called ‘ripping’ sites infringe their rights too. Two of the sites targeted in the recent notices – 2conv.com and flvto.biz – were sued by the labels in 2018. The original complaint contains the following text:

From the complaint

That circumvention (at least in respect of the labels’ works when users select them for download) may also amount to an infringement of the labels’ rights seems to be supported by comments made in the Disney vs VidAngel case.

An opinion from the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit stated that “[n]o person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a [copyrighted] work. Circumvention means ‘to decrypt an encrypted work.. without the authority of the copyright owner’.”

Nevertheless, it was previously argued by the EFF that stream-ripping sites are not by definition illegal since on top of the usual fair use exemptions, some creators who upload their content to online platforms grant permission for people to freely download and modify their work.

“There exists a vast and growing volume of online video that is licensed for free downloading and modification, or contains audio tracks that are not subject to copyright,” the EFF stresses.

“Moreover, many audio extractions qualify as non-infringing fair uses under copyright. Providing a service that is capable of extracting audio tracks for these lawful purposes is itself lawful, even if some users infringe.”

The anti-circumvention notices detailed above are not only relatively rare but also have an additional interesting property – they are harder to dispute than regular DMCA takedown notices.

As detailed here last year, Google told the target of a similar complaint requesting URL delisting that “There is no formal counter notification process available under US law for circumvention, so we have not reinstated these URLs.”

The pair of DMCA anti-circumvention notices can be found here 1,2 (pdf)

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Google Search Apparently Indexes Over 80 Million Torrent Hashes

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/google-search-apparently-indexes-over-80-million-torrent-hashes-190908/

Like every general search engine on the web, Google indexes every page it can find. That’s what it’s for, after all.

Torrent meta-search engines do things quite differently. These sites are only interested in torrent links found on external sites.

This includes Torrentz2, which is without a doubt the most popular torrent meta-search engine on the Internet. The site took over from the original Torrentz site, which after it surprisingly closed its doors during the summer of 2016.

Over the past three years, the site has rolled out some updates, most of which have gone unnoticed. However, recently our interest was piqued by a rather unusual addition to the Torrent2’s indexed sites.

Starting a few weeks ago, Torrentz3 began listing “Google” as a ‘source’ in its search results. Not somewhere down the bottom, but as the top result for every piece of content. Here’s what shows up on the “Ubuntu desktop 19.04” page.

The Google link on top leads to a Google search for the associated torrent hash, which finds dozens of pages where the Ubuntu torrent is available as well. This works the same for all other results. Usually, Google returns plenty of options, including several sites that Torrentz2 doesn’t search.

What’s also interesting to note is the number of hashes Google has listed in its search engine. According to Torrentz2, Google is currently able to find 82,085,976 unique torrent hashes.

While that’s already an impressive amount, the number of torrent pages indexed by Google is actually much higher, as it often has dozens of pages for each torrent hash. After all, the same torrents generally appear on several torrent sites.

Google, like any other search engine, has always indexed torrent sites. In fact, it even has a dedicated filetype:torrent command. This allows users to search for .torrent files directly on Google, but it isn’t as effective as the hash-based method.

Also, in recent years the site took several measures to make copyright-infringing content harder to find. Nowadays it can be quite a challenge to find something in Google by simply assing “torrent” to a search query.

With Torrentz2 + Google, however, that doesn’t appear to be an issue.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Adult Site Calls For Google Action Against DMCA Notice ‘Carpet Bombing’

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/adult-site-calls-for-google-action-against-dmca-notice-carpet-bombing-190907/

Back in June we reported on massive waves of what appeared to be bogus DMCA notices targeting various adult-focused sites.

Some of the sites hit hard in these earlier waves were so-called ‘hentai’ sites which focus on adult-orientated comics and cartoons.

They complained that a ‘company’ called Copyright Legal Services Inc. (there’s no obvious record of such an entity online) was the author of many notices which attempted to delist thousands of URLs and in some cases homepages and even entire sites from Google. It claimed to be working on behalf of DLSite.com, a platform operated by Japan’s EYSIS, Inc.

Since the initial reports, the same kind of activity has continued, with force. However, notices similar to the ones originally sent by Copyright Legal Services are now being sent by a new entity, Right Protection Corporation, which not only target the main domain pages of various sites but also their entire web structures.

In common with Copyright Legal Services before them, Right Protection Corporation (RPC) doesn’t appear to exist on the web, even though their notices claim they have bases in at least three countries – United States, Japan and China. They are sending volume requests to delete countless thousands of URLs from Google, even though they appear to have no right to do so.

One takedown notice pointed out to TF reveals a notice that has been sent in the form of a PDF, meaning that it can’t easily be searched for using the tools offered by DMCA transparency portal Lumen Database.

However, looking inside proved useful as it reveals that the ‘RPC’ is attempting to have thousands of URLs delisted from a single site – rule34.paheal.net – including its main page which displays nothing but a warning that it carries adult material and a note about cookies. There are many other examples, such as this one, which attempt to do the same thing.

TorrentFreak is informed that some operators of the affected sites, including the operator of Konachan.com, have filed counter-notices with Google and have achieved some success in having their URLs reinstated.

However, the operator of Gelbooru.com, which was hit hard in the first wave, says he’s had huge difficulties in getting touch with Google’s legal team for them to take restorative action, as required when a proper DMCA counter-notice is filed.

“Their [Standard Operating Procedure] is ignore until sued, so we are moving forward with trying to get anyone who runs a website that was affected by this whole situation to contact us directly if they’d be interested in joining a class action that will be filed,” he informs TF.

“We require at least three others to be a class action, and Google must have ignored or denied any counter DMCA notices sent to them to be able to join. Message me, ‘lozertuser’, directly on our Discord.”

The overall aim appears to have Google either respond to the counter-notices or preferably get in touch with Gelbooru’s lawyers, in order to sort out the issue without either company having to waste any more time on the problem. Hopefully, no class action will be required but it remains a possibility.

In the meantime, it’s worth highlighting that DLSite.com, the platform which the notices claim to protect, has categorically denied it is behind the mass notices sent in its name.

A statement sent to the OneAngryGamer site, which covered our earlier report, has the company stating that it had reviewed our article and noted that “EISYS, Inc. / DLsite is not involved in this matter. When we send a DMCA request it will be via: Eisys, Inc. We do not know anything about the company: ‘Copyright Legal Services INC’.”

Them and everyone else, then…

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

‘Google Blocked TorrentFreak From Appearing in Search Feature’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/google-blocked-torrentfreak-from-appearing-in-search-feature-190815/

At TorrentFreak, we have written hundreds of articles about website blocking and censorship. Today, we’re featured in one ourselves.

Leaked Google documents reveal that TorrentFreak.com shows up in one of Google’s previously unknown blocklists, which actively hides our domain from the Google Now service.

Google Now was a Google search feature that presented users with informational cards, to provide users with more details on subjects of interest to them. While the brand no longer exists, the feature is still present in the Google Android app and its feed.

The controversial blocklist is part of a treasure trove of files that were leaked by whistleblower Zachary Vorhies, who shared them with Project Veritas. The entire collection of files uncovers many previously unknown policies and actions from Google.

“These documents were available to every single employee within the company that was full-time. And so as a fulltime employee at the company, I just searched for some keywords and these documents started to pop up,” Vorhies said.

The Google Now blocklist, which is available here, contains nearly 500 domain names. The file starts with APKMirror, eBay and some Google sites, and then continues with several torrent related sites including The Pirate Bay, RARBG and EZTV, as well as some that no longer exist.

TorrentFreak.com is grouped in with the torrent sites. While the list doesn’t give a reason for the block, it appears that it’s related to the subject of piracy.

Torrent blocks

The list then continues with sites that are tagged due to having a “high user block rate.” These include quite a few conservative websites. As the description suggests, they may have been filtered because a lot of users block these sites.

Further down the list, there are also a dozen sites that are supposedly “flagged for peddling hoax stories.”

High user block rate

This isn’t the first Google leak story by Project Veritas. The outlet previously published internal Google documents about what it described as “algorithmic unfairness.”

Google obviously wasn’t happy with the leaks. The company reportedly sent a threatening letter to Vorhies after it uncovered his identity, and the San Fransisco police later visited the Google insider for a “mental health” check.

The turn of events triggered Vorhies to release the documents in public and step out of the shadows. In addition to sharing the information publicly, he also sent the data dump to the US Department of Justice’s antitrust division.

TorrentFreak is not able to independently verify the authenticity of the blocklist or any of the other materials that were leaked. It’s also not clear whether the list is up-to-date and still actively used.

We reached out to a Google spokesperson to find out more. including why our site appears on this list, but at the time of writing, we have yet to hear back.

A full copy of all the leaked files, which also contains other documents about censorship, hiring practices, and psychological research, is accessible via Project Veritas. The site also published a detailed video interview with the whistleblower.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Rightsholders Remove Google Results of Legal Search Engine ‘JustWatch’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/rightsholders-remove-google-results-of-legal-search-engine-justwatch/

The entertainment industries have gone head to head with Google over the past years, demanding tougher anti-piracy measures from the search engine.

Ideally, several industry groups would like Google to completely remove pirate sites from its search results. In addition, they argue that the search engine should boost the rankings of legal services and sites that allow the public to find legal content.

JustWatch is one of these legal options. While it doesn’t offer any content itself, it provides a great search tool for people who want to find legal entertainment on dozens of services. As such, it is widely recommended by industry insiders.

When Fox alerts ISPs and hosting companies of alleged pirates, for example, it specifically recommends JustWatch as a good starting point.

“We encourage you to refer your account holder to the website justwatch.com where they will find an array of legal choices,” Fox notes.

Given this reputation, it’s rather unfortunate that copyright holders repeatedly ask Google to remove JustWatch URLs from its search engine. While these requests are likely made in error, the result is that these companies make it harder for people to find legal alternatives.

Take this copyright infringement notice from anime producer Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) for example. The takedown request, directed at Google, lists dozens of infringing URLs, as well as two from JustWatch.

Takedown notice

While KBS probably identified these URLs by mistake, thinking that JustWatch is a pirate site, Google did in fact take action. As a result, the site’s official page of “The King’s Face” is no longer showing up in the search results.

“In response to a complaint that we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 1 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read the DMCA complaint that caused the removal(s) at LumenDatabase.org,” Google explains.

JustWatch removed…

This isn’t an isolated incident either. Since the start of this year, Google has been asked to remove more than a hundred JustWatch URLs. These notices are attributed to a variety of rightsholders, including KBS, CJ, AMC Networks, Zee Entertainment, and Toei Animation.

In the example given earlier, as well as several other instances, the links have been removed. However, Google also managed to prevent some takedowns, including this one AMC sent for “Fear The Walking Dead.”

What’s clear, however, is that many JustWatch links are no longer appearing in Google’s search results. While this is unlikely to be intentional, it is rather unfortunate, especially since rightsholders themselves have asked Google to promote such services.

Perhaps it’s a good idea to prevent these clear errors, before demanding Google to “do more”?

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Phone Pharming for Ad Fraud

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2019/08/phone_farming_f.html

Interesting article on people using banks of smartphones to commit ad fraud for profit.

No one knows how prevalent ad fraud is on the Internet. I believe it is surprisingly high — here’s an article that places losses between $6.5 and $19 billion annually — and something companies like Google and Facebook would prefer remain unresearched.

Google Fined Again For Not Removing Banned Sites From Search Results

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/google-fined-again-for-not-removing-banned-sites-from-search-results-190720/

In order to control what kind of information its citizens have access to online, Russia operates an Internet ‘blacklist’.

Known locally as FGIS (Unified Register of Prohibited Information), the database contains the domains of thousands of sites containing anything from extremist material to pirated copies of movies and TV shows.

Major online technology platforms are expected to interface with FGIS to ensure they receive up-to-date information on which sites are forbidden in Russia. In the case of search engines, the database provides details on which sites should be removed from search results.

After failing to connect its systems to the FGIS and deindexing sites as required, last December Google was fined by Russian authorities. That was followed by threats from local telecoms watch Roscomnadzor early 2019 that the US-based company could be fined again for non-compliance, as well as facing a potential block itself.

In February 2019 it was reported that Google was finally playing ball and everything was running more smoothly. However, that appears not have been the case. According to an announcement published this week by Roscomnadzor, Google has been fined again.

“The company has not complied with the requirements of the law..[..]..by excluding from search results links to Internet resources with illegal information, access to which is restricted in Russia,” Roscomndazor said.

“The control event recorded that Google carries out selective filtering of search results – more than a third of the links from a single registry of prohibited information are still preserved in its search results.”

Explaining that Google has been told repeatedly of the legal requirements in Russia, the watchdog revealed that the fine handed down was 700,000 rubles – just US$11,098 – a drop in the ocean as far as Google is concerned.

Digital rights group Roscomsvoboda reports that in April 2019, Google had removed 80% of the specified banned content from its search results. However, data covering the period ending May, for which the fine was levied, showed that removal levels had fallen to 67.5%.

Last month, when Google learned that it was in line for another fine after a warning from Roscomnadzor, the company expressed surprise.

“We have not changed anything. A couple of months ago we agreed that we will not connect to the registry of banned sites and will not blindly delete anything, but consider requests to delete content, and where it meets the requirements, we remove content from the Russian service,” a spokesperson said.

“We do not understand why Roscomnadzor is talking about a new case or where they get these figures from.”

Whether Google will eventually connect to the FGIS isn’t clear. It currently receives a daily list of sites to be blocked and acts on those as it sees fit. Only time will tell whether that will be enough for Roscomndazor moving forward.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Fake MPAA Asks Google to Remove Thousands of URLs, Including MPAA.org

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/fake-mpaa-asks-google-to-remove-thousands-of-urls-including-mpaa-org-190714/

In 2012, Google first published a Transparency Report for search-related copyright takedown notices.

This rather enlightening database allows outsiders to check what URLs copyright holders want removed from the search engine.

In recent years Google has processed more than four billion URLs. While most of these requests are legitimate, there have also been plenty of errors, mistakes, and in some instances; clear abuse.

Most of the cases we covered in the past dealt with rightsholders targeting perfectly legal content, ranging from news articles, through open-source software, to Facebook’s homepage. Over the past year, however, we’ve noticed a different but equally disturbing trend.

Among the millions of notices Google receives on a weekly basis, there are now quite a few ‘fake’ submissions. Fake, in this case, means that the submitter pretends to be or represent someone else. Someone who it clearly isn’t.

We first spotted this late last year when imposters targeted many pirate sites with suspicious takedown requests. These were presumably sent by competing pirate sites, trying to remove the competition from Google’s search results. More recently, imposters even tried to remove a Netflix listing.

Today we have another example that’s perhaps even more blatant. It involves the name of Hollywood’s very own anti-piracy group, the MPAA.

In recent weeks Google received a flood of notices claiming to be from the Hollywood group. While the MPAA is based in the U.S., the notices in question are sent on behalf of “MPAA UK” and “MPAA Member Studios DE”. 

However, none of the listings below, including “MPAA Member Studios US,” are legitimate. It appears that someone is pretending to be the MPAA, sending takedown requests for tens of thousands of URLs. 

Fake MPAA’s

Looking more closely at the takedown requests, we see a familar pattern emerge. The notices mainly target a small group of ‘pirate’ sites. For example, over 10,000 URLs of the Turkish movie streaming site Filmifullizle.tv were targeted in just one week, with most notices coming from fake MPAA’s.

Filmmodu.com, and other Turkish streaming portals such as Yabancidizi.org, Fullhdfilmizleten.org, and Filmionlineizle.tv, get the same treatment, either by a fake MPAA or another scammer.

Interestingly, these imposters are rather sloppy at times. On several occasions they put the infringing URLs in the “original works” box, labeling the MPAA’s homepage as the infringing content. Luckily for the real MPAA, Google didn’t remove it.  

Pirate MPAA?

As we have highlighted in the past, these imposters are likely to be competing pirate sites, who want to take out the competition by making their opponents’ sites unfindable in Google’s search results. A clear case of abuse. 

At the time of writing, Google has complied with several of the fake takedown requests, removing the allegedly-infringing URLs. However, the search engine does appear to be aware of the problem, and has labeled some submissions as being fake. 

The imposter situation definitely doesn’t help the credibility of the takedown process. Google has its hands full and we imagine that the MPAA isn’t happy with the misuse of its name either. 

That said, the Hollywood group certainly isn’t alone in this. Several other rightsholders and anti-piracy organizations have imposters as well, including Marvel, Warner Bros., MarkMonitor, DigiGuardians, Marketly, and many others.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Google Releases Basic Homomorphic Encryption Tool

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2019/07/google_releases_1.html

Google has released an open-source cryptographic tool: Private Join and Compute. From a Wired article:

Private Join and Compute uses a 1970s methodology known as “commutative encryption” to allow data in the data sets to be encrypted with multiple keys, without it mattering which order the keys are used in. This is helpful for multiparty computation, where you need to apply and later peel away multiple layers of encryption without affecting the computations performed on the encrypted data. Crucially, Private Join and Compute also uses methods first developed in the ’90s that enable a system to combine two encrypted data sets, determine what they have in common, and then perform mathematical computations directly on this encrypted, unreadable data through a technique called homomorphic encryption.

True homomorphic encryption isn’t possible, and my guess is that it will never be feasible for most applications. But limited application tricks like this have been around for decades, and sometimes they’re useful.

Boing Boing article.

Google Flags Hundreds of Pirate Sites for ‘Abusive Experiences’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/google-flags-hundreds-of-pirate-sites-for-abusive-experiences-190629/

Online advertising can be quite a nuisance. Flashy and noisy banners, or intrusive pop-ups, are a thorn in the side of many Internet users.

These type of ads are particularly popular on pirate sites. Many users tackle this by installing an ad-blocker. People who don’t, often have to navigate through a maze of fake download buttons and other misleading ads.

Increasingly, Google is trying to hide such ads from the public. Not just on pirate sites, but everywhere they pop up. The company, which derives most of its income from adverts, is generally not a fan of ad-blocking. However, it does employ various blocking initiatives that target third-party advertisers.

Two years ago the company announced that its Chrome browser would start to automatically block ads that don’t adhere to the  Better Ads Standards, for example. This was implemented early last year in several locations, including the US and Europe.

In a separate effort, Google has also started to banish abusive experiences. In Chrome its begun warning users about various deceptive practices, such as fake download and play buttons, while blocking unwanted redirects which are prevalent on some pirate streaming sites.

This wasn’t enough though. Last December, Google upped the ante when it decided to block all ads on a curated selection of sites with persistent abusive experiences. This includes the aforementioned fake download buttons, but also ads that promote or link to unwanted software.

This is a big step, as sites that have all ads blocked will certainly notice a significant dip in revenue. Thus far, however, little was known about what sites are targeted by Google, or how many there are. That changed recently. 

The latest release of the Vivaldi browser, which is based on Chrome, also implemented this blocklist. This was announced in a blog post by its CEO  Jon von Tetzchner.

“We’ve improved security by blocking advertisements on sites with abusive ad practices,” he writes. “We want you to be safe while on the web, and worry less about who’s abusing you with dangerous ads.”

Google’s list of abusive sites is available through an API, but not accessible to the public. However, Vivaldi has access to it and maintains a copy on its servers, as highlighted by Techdows which highlighted it in a recent report.

We should stress that this list of “abusive” sites is separate from the list of sites that violate the “better ads” standard, which Chrome’s built-in ad-blocker uses.

A quick review of the list reveals that it’s dominated by pirate and porn sites. At the time of writing, there are a total of 7,059 sites on the list including hundreds of pirate sites such as thepiratebay.rocks, eztvtorrent.net, filmytorrents.com, gostream.nu, songsmp3.org, and watchonlinemovies.net.

The targeted pirate sites are mostly smaller proxy sites or copycats, often designed to generate revenue. Interestingly, there are also several Blogspot sites on the list, such as the pirate release blog 4howcracked.blogspot.com.  Blogspot is, of course, a blogging platform maintained by Google.

In addition, we noticed that many domains are no longer operational, such as tehmoviez.download, and various others redirect to new URLs, as 0123movies.io does. 

When we first saw the list the relatively popular torrent site TorrentDownloads.me was listed as an ‘abusive’ site as well. The operator confirmed this and told TorrentFreak that he noticed a decline in revenue when that happened.

“Revenue dropped a few months ago when they put us on the abusive list. That’s why we are thinking to move our domain to new TLDs. I will also send a request for Google to review the site again and hope they will unblock it now,” the operator said. 

Apparently, this worked, as the site was unlisted a few hours later. No surprise perhaps, as the site doesn’t display any ads at the moment, so we must wait and see if this holds when the ads are put back.

Another site owner, who prefers to remain anonymous, informed TorrentFreak that his site was listed previously, but that the issue was resolved after he removed what Google flagged as ‘abusive’ code.

With billions of sites on the Internet and just a few thousand on this list of abusive sites, the impact of this measure is relatively minimal. And even on sites that are listed, some ads are still coming through, such as on the adult site 007zeed.com and pirate site Stream-Island.su. 

While the measure may not be perfect, Google sees it as an attempt to keep the web safe. While that’s an honorable motive, there may be a self-serving element to it as well. 

As said before, Google doesn’t want people to install ad-blockers. So, if its own browser blocks flashy ads on sites by default and bans ads on abusive sites completely, fewer people may see the need for a separate ad-blocker.

As a result, Google’s revenues increase. 

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Rightsholders Want to Completely Delist ‘Pirate’ Domains From Search Results

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/rightsholders-want-to-completely-delist-pirate-domains-from-search-results-190621/

The anti-piracy wars are fought on many fronts, from plugging leaks to issuing millions of takedown notices to both sites and search engines.

Despite no deliberate role in piracy, the latter are often described as facilitators of piracy who could do more, by making pirate sites less visible in search results, for example.

While companies like Google have taken such steps both voluntarily (UK) and in response to legal requirements (Australia 1,2), rightsholders would like more. In Russia, where new anti-piracy legislation is currently being debated, there’s an opportunity to set the standard.

Last year, several rightsholders and Internet platforms signed a memorandum of understanding which set out a basic framework for cooperation moving forward. The terms of that agreement are now the subject of negotiations before being turned into law sometime in the next few months.

During a closed-door meeting this week, held at telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor and reported by a Kommersant source, rightsholders set out new tough demands. In order to limit traffic being sent to pirate sites by search engines, they want companies like Yandex (and ultimately Google) to completely delist ‘pirate’ domains from search results.

Under the current terms of the memorandum, signatory companies delist search results (typically URLs) when they appear in a centralized database populated with links provided by content companies and their anti-piracy partners. The new proposals demand that sites considered as repeat infringers should disappear altogether.

Alexei Byrdin, General Director of the Internet Video Association, said that his group had identified a number of measures taken by pirate sites to limit the effectiveness of current measures. This means a more aggressive approach is needed.

“Our response is a draft rule on the removal of the entire domain of a site that systematically violates copyrights [from search results],” he told Kommersant.

While not all sites that receive multiple complaints will be affected (social networks and video hosting platforms would be excluded, for example), Internet companies are said to be opposed to the proposals. Among them Yandex, Russia’s largest search engine.

“It is necessary that any measures that entail inaccessibility to users of entire sites are based on a court decision. We are sure that such a solution will be found,” the company’s press office commented.

Channel One, the National Media Group, Gazprom-Media, the Internet Video Association, the Association of Film and Television Producers, Yandex, Rambler Group, Mail.Ru Group, vKontakte, and RuTube, are all signatories of the current memorandum.

The framework is set to expire on September 1, 2019, but could be extended if consensus isn’t reached by that date. However, aside from the deletion of entire domains from search results, it’s reported that the parties are largely in agreement, meaning that Russia is on course to expand its anti-piracy laws significantly, once again.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Backdoor Built into Android Firmware

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2019/06/backdoor_built_.html

In 2017, some Android phones came with a backdoor pre-installed:

Criminals in 2017 managed to get an advanced backdoor preinstalled on Android devices before they left the factories of manufacturers, Google researchers confirmed on Thursday.

Triada first came to light in 2016 in articles published by Kaspersky here and here, the first of which said the malware was “one of the most advanced mobile Trojans” the security firm’s analysts had ever encountered. Once installed, Triada’s chief purpose was to install apps that could be used to send spam and display ads. It employed an impressive kit of tools, including rooting exploits that bypassed security protections built into Android and the means to modify the Android OS’ all-powerful Zygote process. That meant the malware could directly tamper with every installed app. Triada also connected to no fewer than 17 command and control servers.

In July 2017, security firm Dr. Web reported that its researchers had found Triada built into the firmware of several Android devices, including the Leagoo M5 Plus, Leagoo M8, Nomu S10, and Nomu S20. The attackers used the backdoor to surreptitiously download and install modules. Because the backdoor was embedded into one of the OS libraries and located in the system section, it couldn’t be deleted using standard methods, the report said.

On Thursday, Google confirmed the Dr. Web report, although it stopped short of naming the manufacturers. Thursday’s report also said the supply chain attack was pulled off by one or more partners the manufacturers used in preparing the final firmware image used in the affected devices.

This is a supply chain attack. It seems to be the work of criminals, but it could just as easily have been a nation-state.

DMCA Takedowns Try to Delist Dozens of Adult Homepages from Google

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/dmca-takedowns-try-to-delist-dozens-of-adult-homepages-from-google-190608/

Google receives millions of notices requesting the removal of allegedly-infringing links from its search results every month.

The load is truly huge, as is the flood of pirated content the DMCA notices attempt to address. It’s a huge task on all sides, so it’s not a surprise some dubious takedowns slip through the net. Over the past couple of weeks, more than usual appear to have done just that.

Without going into too much detail and annoying the purists, hentai can loosely be defined as adult-focused comics and cartoons. Hailing from Japan, hentai has a huge following worldwide and, of course, is widely pirated.

Several companies and organizations attempt to take infringing content down but this week a new one stepped up to cause waves across hundreds of sites.

It isn’t clear who is behind ‘Copyright Legal Services INC’ (CLS). A specific Google search yields nothing and its takedown notices offer no additional information either. However, several of its DMCA notices indicate that the original works it tries to protect can be bought from DLSite.com, a platform operated by Japan’s EYSIS, Inc.

At first view, the notices filed by CLS seem unremarkable. They list original works and then allegedly-infringing URLs. However, what these notices then try to do is purge from Google entire adult-site homepages, full sections, plus pages that clearly aren’t infringing.

Due to their inherent NSFW nature, we won’t quote them directly here but anyone interested can click the links provided.

For instance, this notice attempts to remove ‘xhamster.com/hd’ and the ‘subbed’ and ‘english’ tag archives on YouPorn.com.. Many other sites are listed too, with the notice even trying to take down their contact pages. Around two dozen homepages are among the 331 targeted URLs.

Another notice targets 198 URLs, six of them site homepages. In common with the other notices, some have been removed from Google search, others have not. It’s hard to make a clear determination but Google seems to delist some smaller sites while giving sites like YouPorn and xHamster a pass.

The list of notices goes on, and on, and on, and on, with the same general theme of some accurate reports, many massively overbroad ones, and notices that nearly always target some sites’ homepages, some of which were acted upon by Google.

A site operator affected by the wave of takedowns sent TorrentFreak a list of the homepages that were requested for removal from Google. They numbered 294, which is a lot by any measurement.

Of course, there are a number of other factors that also need to be highlighted.

While it’s impractical to check them all, a cursory view of a few dozen domain URLs shows that most of the sites are probably infringing someone’s copyrights, so these types of notices (when accurate) shouldn’t come as a surprise.

It’s also possible that some of the sites carried the content in question on their homepages when the notices were sent to Google. However, given the volume of sites and the limited range of content, it seems likely this would be the exception and not the rule.

The operator of one site – Gelbooru.com – which had its homepage delisted from Google despite containing no infringing content, told TorrentFreak that complaining to Google proved fruitless.

Homepage delisted

“Thanks for reaching out to us,” Google responded.

“At this time, Google has decided not to take action. We encourage you to review https://library.educause.edu/topics/policy-and-law/digital-millennium-copyright-act-dmca for more information about the DMCA. If you have legal questions about this notification, you should retain your own legal counsel.”

The full list of notices referenced above can be found here but may require registration to view in detail, as reported here.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.