Design/methodology/approach – This study is to a large extent descriptively collecting data through a web-based survey. This was carried out in collaboration with the BitTorrent tracker The Pirate Bay (TPB), allowing the authors to link the survey from the main logo of their site. In 72 hours the authors received over 75,000 responses, which gives the opportunity to compare use of anonymity services with factors of age, geographical region, file sharing frequency, etc.
Findings – Overall, 17.8 per cent of the respondents use a VPN or similar service (free or paid). A core of high frequency uploaders is more inclined to use VPN or similar services than the average file sharer. Online anonymity practices in the file sharing community are depending on how legal and social norms correlate (more enforcement means more anonymity).
Research limitations/implications – The web-based survey was in English and mainly attracted visitors on The Pirate Bays’ web page. This means that it is likely that those who do not have the language skills necessary were excluded from the survey.
Practical implications – This study adds to the knowledge of anonymity practices online in terms of traceability and identification. This means that it shows some of the conditions for legal enforcement in a digital environment.
Social implications – This study adds to the knowledge of how the Internet is changing in terms of a polarization between stronger means of legally enforced identification and a growing awareness of how to be more untraceable.
Originality/value – The scale of the survey, with over 75,000 respondents from most parts of the world, has likely not been seen before on this topic. The descriptive study of anonymity practices inthe global file sharing community is therefore likely unique.
2012. Vol. 6, no 4, 260-280 p.
Anonymity, VPN, Traceability, Piracy, Copyright, The Pirate Bay, File sharing, Enforcement, Social norms, Digital technology