Options for torrenting, while sharing zero bits?
May 1, 2016 1:34 AM   Subscribe

Hello, all. Anybody who knows me will tell you, I am all about privacy. I'm an American, I want my privacy, and I want to come and go as I please, without feeling I'm being tracked by anyone. So, as a general technology inquiry, I would like to ask you, what would a persons options be if they wished to download a torrent file without sharing a single bit?

I just want to download my file without sharing the file with anyone else. I have tested BitThief on OSX but I'm having a hard time getting it to run on my system, I'd prefer to not run it through a virtual Windows machine, I don't like having to run an old (or new) Java build to support it, and it hasn't really been in development in several years. So, what is a guys best option today? I prefer to run it on OSX but if the better(er) option is on Windows or Linux (Ubuntu, maybe?) then I'm open to that.
posted by tellUwut to Technology (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Most clients won't allow you to do this as it is obviously bad for the torrent ecosystem, but in this instance you're in luck: the OSX version of Transmission will allow you to configure it in this manner.

1. Download and install a copy of Transmission: https://www.transmissionbt.com/download/
2. Open Transmission and then from the menubar, select Transmission and Preferences...
3. Select Bandwidth from the preference tabs, then tick Upload Rate under Global Bandwidth Limits and enter 0 KB/s as the limit. Set the speed limit mode as 0 KB/s too, in case you end up using this mode.
4. Select Transfers from the tabs, then click the Management button. Under Limits, tick Stop seeding at ratio and enter 0.00.

That's it for stopping any data being uploaded. As you are privacy conscious, I'd also suggest the following (still in Preferences):

1. Select Peers from the tabs, and under Encryption, tick Prefer encrypted peers and Ignore unencrypted peers (this may slow down some torrents as you will be excluding some download sources, but it's never caused me an issue).
2. Also under Peers, tick Prevent peers in blocklist from connecting, and paste this URL into the URL field: http://john.bitsurge.net/public/biglist.p2p.gz then click Update. After about a minute, it should report just over 150,000 rules are in the block list. Tick Automatically update weekly. This will filter IPs known to be snooping on what is being shared on the network.
posted by NordyneDefenceDynamics at 2:06 AM on May 1, 2016 [6 favorites]

Or you could get a VPN subscription and tunnel to a more privacy-friendly country. Switzerland is recommended, I understand.
posted by Thug at 3:58 AM on May 1, 2016

tl;dr: What you want to achieve is impossible.

without feeling I'm being tracked by anyone

download a torrent file without sharing a single bit

Your 2nd statement doesn't make the 1st possible, by not sharing what you download with other peers you're not gaining any meaningful privacy since your ISP, the tracker operator and anyone who snoops your traffic in-between would still know what you're doing. There might be malicious peers in the swarm but most likely you're only harming other users like you by not sharing, all for a false sense of security.

If you got a VPN like Thug says then your ISP would only know that you're connecting to them and the tracker would only know that someone was using a VPN, but your VPN provider would know everything, so, again, tracked but by a possibly different entity who, like the others, would likely share their data about you if asked/coerced (or perhaps even voluntarily without telling you).
posted by Bangaioh at 4:56 AM on May 1, 2016 [12 favorites]

+1 for Bangaioh.

Unless you do something to attract the attention of people who want to spend money and time targeting you, then your greatest degree of privacy comes from the fact that the data you generate on the net are lost in a sea of trillions of other bits.

Every packet you generate includes your IP address. Every packet sent back to you includes your IP address. Every router, server, etc., those packets traverse can retain that IP address if its operators want it to. That's the way the internet works.

You can attempt to disguise and obsfucate thing via Tor and similar approaches. That complicates matters but doesn't make it impossible to link things to an individual.

If you're bothered by targeted ads and such, use an ad blocker. I don't consider that a privacy issue.
posted by justcorbly at 5:39 AM on May 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

the above comments don't mention that while you're downloading the torrent the tracker will still be reporting you to any and everyone as a peer to check for portions of the torrent (regardless of whether you set your client to stop uploads). you may not send anything but they still know you're out there and can tell how much you've downloaded.
posted by noloveforned at 6:24 AM on May 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

For the purposes of pirating movies, a VPN is generaly sufficient though. Yes, the VPN knows, but so far the MPAA hasn't really targeted VPN providers. Many claim not to keep records so as to make subpoenas useless, which may or may not be true, I'm a bit doubtful myself.
posted by sotonohito at 6:44 AM on May 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Surprised that no one has mentioned that setting your upload to 0 is kind of defeating the point of BitTorrent altogether. I mean, it's ok occasionally but you are supposed to be sharing back out to make the system work. I agree with the VPN suggestion.
posted by cabingirl at 6:50 AM on May 1, 2016 [7 favorites]

For an exhaustive comparison of various VPN services, someone put together a spreadsheet [Google Docs] you may find helpful. There's a FAQ tab at the bottom.
posted by glonous keming at 9:13 AM on May 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Depending on what you intend to download through torrents, maybe torrenting isn't what you need. USENET is still around, and it's still home to the same sort of media releases that torrents are also releasing. You download USENET essentially at the speed of your connection, or the speed of your USENET host, whichever is slower. (Your connection is probably slower.) Releases appear at around the same time as on torrent sites, but unlike torrents where you depend on seeds, the files are usually retained several years, barring cancellation.

You'll need to sign up for a proper USENET server (probably around $15/month, but all of them have 30-day trials) since your own ISP most likely doesn't carry the massive binaries groups to the degree you'd, you'll need a downloading client, and these days it's pretty essential to have a good source of NZBs, because the powers that be seem to be good at cancelling postings for popular media which are overtly searchable.

Like VPN providers mentioned above, you'd have to sign up with a USENET service, which you can anonymize w/r/t payment using a reloadable disposable credit card or similar, but ultimately your IP address will connect to their server. As yet, I don't think the media companies have gone after them, but it'll be in some logs, potentially. Likewise NZB services need to be signed up for, but that can be done more anonymously.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:51 AM on May 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

I use FrostWire and Transmission for this all the time. You know, for science.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:49 AM on May 1, 2016

« Older Central Asia and Whiteness   |   How do I start a conversation with my brother's... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.