BitTorrent is a public file-sharing protocol, which broadcasts IP-addresses of up- and downloaders to the public at large.
For some, this is a problem, so to prevent this from happening, people turn to third-party services such as VPNs, proxies, or cloud torrent downloaders.
While these services add an extra layer of protection, not all are anonymous. Many cloud torrent downloaders, for example, can still connect an IP-address and timestamp to a specific user or their service.
With this in mind, we wondered how this applies to seedboxes. While these services are not predominantly used as an anonymity tool, some believe that they are.
To find out whether this is indeed the case, we reached out to several of the largest seedbox providers with a set of relevant questions. The questions cover logging practices, responses to DMCA notices, and legal requests, among other things. The full set of questions is as follows:
1. Does your service collect any temporary or permanent data that can link a seedbox IP-address to a specific user on your service? If so, what information do you collect and how long is that stored?
2. Does your service store any personally identifiable information of users (including IP-addresses)? If so, what information do you store, and for how long?
3. Does your service store the names/hashes or other identifying information of (previously) downloaded content (stored on your servers) that can be connected with a specific user? If so, for how long?
4. Do you offer dedicated and/or shared IP addresses? When IP addresses are shared and you get a ‘live’ complaint from a third-party, is it possible for you to link an IP address to a ‘live’ torrent and related user account?
5. How does your service respond to DMCA notices or similar takedown requests?
6. Do you have a repeat infringer policy? If so, what does it entail?
7. Have you ever had a request to provide information on a specific user from a third-party and been able to do so?
8. In what circumstances do you comply with legal requests and what are you able to hand over?
While we contacted nearly a dozen seedbox providers, only two replied. This is rather disappointing, especially from companies that sometimes serve tens of thousands of customers.
Below are the responses from the two providers who were kind enough to answer: SonicBit and Rapidseedbox.
1. We do store user IP addresses for any user using our seedbox to keep our service clean from dupe/ fake email accounts, invalid referral activity, etc. Information will be removed when a user requests to remove their account.
2. We do store user IPs when a user logs in and logs out, for user account security to check any invalid activity in their account. Information will be removed when a user requests to remove their account.
3. We do not store downloaded hashes.
4. We only offer shared seedbox IP address, but different seedbox instances. We can check the specific user for any torrent downloaded in their account even with a shared seedbox IP address.
5. We will respond to it promptly and seriously, check if the takedown request is valid, and then forward the DMCA notice to the user. If there is no response in three days, we will remove the content manually.
8. We do comply with the legal requests and do our best to resolve any legal requests to keep our service clean.
1. A user is linked to a seedbox IP, at the time of usage. When the subscription is terminated, the whole seedbox is terminated as well.
2. We store the email, transaction history, last logged time and IP address in the client area. Users can request account/data deletion at any time. At times, we clear up dormant accounts to save resources.
3. No. On five out of six plans, the user gets a VPS with root access and has full control over the seedbox.
4. Each seedbox has a dedicated IP address. “Live” complaints are linked to an IP address/user.
5. Locating and deleting the data proactively, informing the user, and asking to not repeat.
6. Repeat infringers will get their services suspended and eventually terminated.
7. We refer people to our Terms of Service and encourage them to take responsibility for the activity and the content on their allocated seedbox.
8. See the answer to question 7.
As the answers above show, seedboxes can be very useful. However, they are certainly not (always) anonymous.
If your seedbox provider isn’t listed here we would encourage you to reach out to support, asking these same questions. We are happy to add responses to this article going forward if any more come in.
Many thanks to TorrentFreak for the breaking news.