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Questions Raised over Anti-Piracy Data Sharing by Sky Broadband UPDATE

Monday, Sep 11th, 2023 (11:00 am) - Score 7,824
internet spying eye

A new report has claimed that UK ISP Sky Broadband could be providing, as part of wider anti-piracy measures, more private customer and related financial data to rights-holders and / or related third-party groups than many consumers may be either aware of or comfortable with.

Most internet access providers will conduct some monitoring and / or logging of their customers’ internet activity as part of natural network management or legal requirements (e.g. the Investigatory Powers Act 2016). But access to this data is usually protected and rightly so, since consumers tend to be very worried about companies that share their private data too widely.

For example, most broadband ISPs won’t share private customer details with copyright holders or related firms unless such companies can first match Internet Protocol (IP) addresses (inc. precise times and dates of the alleged activity) to account owners, which requires them to submit a Norwich Pharmacal Order (NPO) to the courts before any details can be lawfully released. Internet providers rarely oppose such requests.

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The situation can, however, get a little more complicated once we come to providers that also have a vested interest in being TV / video content providers too. In those cases, related providers may be a little more flexible with data sharing in their terms, such as by enabling the exchange of information with different divisions within their wider group to support new products, service bundles or enforcement measures etc.

According to a new report from TorrentFreak, Sky’s Privacy Policy appears to go beyond all this, particularly when looking at the ‘Sharing with third parties‘ section, where their statements become much more explicit. For example, this is what it says for third-party data sharing with “Credit reference agencies (Experian, Equifax and CRIF) fraud and crime prevention agencies (CIFAS) and other communications providers and banks with whom we have a shared interest in combatting fraud and piracy.”

Sky’s Third-Party Customer Data Sharing Terms

We share your personal data, such as your contact details, financial data and other information described below, with credit reference and fraud prevention agencies and other relevant parties:

– for use in automated credit decisions;
– to help assess whether you are likely to be able to afford the products and services you wish to take from us to help protect your interests and ours;
– for the prevention and detection of crimes such as fraud, piracy and money laundering; and
– for identity check and data verification purposes.


Anti-piracy

Where we reasonably suspect that you are pirating Sky or third-party content, we may share information with other organisations with a similar legitimate interest in preventing, detecting and prosecuting piracy.

The big question mark that remains is over precisely how these policies work in practice, which is unclear. The other key thing to remember here is that internet connectivity is a shared medium (i.e. Sky only knows the bill payer, but they may not be the one committing an alleged offence), and the best place to settle disputes over suspected cases of internet piracy is via the courts.

Both BT and Virgin Media (VMO2) have similar Privacy Policies, although Sky’s appears to be the most uncompromising and specific. By comparison, BT specifically states that, “unless we are required to by law, we will not disclose your personal information to the copyright holder or any party acting on their behalf,” which could perhaps be considered the normal approach for most ISPs.

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Meanwhile, Virgin’s policy is a bit more ambiguous: “We use information about who you are and your use of our products and services to block unauthorized or illegitimate content on our TV platforms, respond to court proceedings and enforcement authorities, and help authorities and industry organizations with any security, fraud, anti-piracy, crime or anti-terrorism enquiries.”

Nobody should begrudge Sky for seeking to tackle internet piracy on their platform, which is perfectly understandable. But there are established legal processes so that ISPs aren’t weakening data protection or helping to feed bad practices, such as “speculative invoicing” (i.e. dubious firms working with rights holders to send out threatening letters demanding big sums of money to settle cases of alleged piracy, many of which turn out to be wrongful or lacking in credible evidence).

Customers who sign-up to such services rarely read or fully comprehend the small print, so this may be another example of why it’s always worth taking the time to do more than a quick skim read. We requested a comment from Sky before writing this article, as the original piece didn’t contain one, and hope to report back with their response shortly.

UPDATE 7pm

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Sky hasn’t provided us with a comment, but we have been informed that they do not monitor individual customers’ internet traffic and do not share their customers’ personal information or details with third parties without there being a proper legal basis to do so. But the latter is of course quite vague and possibly open to interpretation. Sky believes their policy on this is no different to that of their competitors.

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Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
19 Responses
  1. Avatar photo 10BaseT says:

    For the piece of mind any IPTV streams and torrent activity should be performed via the VPN. End of story. Also avoid using provider’s DNS.

    1. Avatar photo 10BaseT says:

      *peace not piece 😀

    2. Avatar photo Joe Bloggs says:

      So you’re saying illegal (at worst) or questionable (at best) content should be accessed by VPN? I assume you would give the same advice to kiddy fiddlers as well?

    3. Avatar photo 4chAnon says:

      Re: Joe

      Yes, it’s advisable that kiddy fiddlers would use VPNs, terrorists as well! But it’s worth remembering that both parties already know that and the people preventing P2P, also hate it’s legitimate use because they often don’t know what we’re sharing

    4. Avatar photo 10BaseT says:

      @Joe Bloggs: I can’t take tuner/box abroad to watch for example one of the EU TV platform channels because it is explicitly forbidden in T&Cs. Back in time when UK was in EU I was able to watch legal TV streams in the EU but that is now gone. Also even if I am on the VPN, legal stream providers won’t accept payments from cards issued abroad. When I contacted customer support of one of these providers I’ve been officially told to find someone in the country who will pay using their card and then use the VPN. While I am skilled enough to help myself, there are a lot of people who are not able and they will simple select illegal streams.

      Yes, I am paying TV License fee, Netflix, Amazon, Disney and occasionally NowTV.

    5. Avatar photo Winston Smith says:

      Using encrypted DNS will obscure the server name you’re connecting to without using VPN and also prevent man-in-the-middle DNS attacks. The external IP address of outgoing packets will still be visible of course but that gives far less information to the ISP.

    6. Avatar photo Jack says:

      VPN is the only way with Sky Broadband. They have aggressive transparent DNS proxies which still hijack DNS even if set to another DNS provider (Same with Sky Mobile too)

    7. Avatar photo 10BaseT says:

      @Jack: Very unlikely they can interfere in DoH which is running on 443 using TLS >1.2.

  2. Avatar photo Anthony says:

    I used to be with NowBroadband owned by Sky. And I had an IPTV service. What I found was they blocked all access to IPTV services whenever there was a football game on. It took me ages to realize what was causing these outages as I wasn’t even watching football to know game was on. It disturbed me greatly sky did that and had the ability to do that.

    1. Avatar photo Flame Henry says:

      More likely that the IPTV service is getting swamped by everyone watching the game.

      However, if they are blocking the service as you suggest, when they ‘unblock’ it, this would surely mean they are knowingly facilitating piracy on their network against other rights-holders?

    2. Avatar photo Router says:

      ^ It is upto the broadcasters/entities to force blocks. Sky (and most other ISPs) will not overblock. If the Premier League says it is ok for a block to be lifted, it gets lifted.

  3. Avatar photo Aliens says:

    I wonder why Mark choses to never acknowledge the people on his forums who discuss this stuff and post links before he writes a story about it. Not the first time

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Because I’m a human with a life outside ISPreview, not a robot, and don’t pick up on everything (people should email news tips to me directly). TorrentFreak is also on my daily week-day check list (I often highlight their stories, when relevant) and I generally do the news BEFORE I check in on the forum each day. But this is kind of an irrelevant discussion as TorrentFreak is the original news source, not our forum, so I wouldn’t have mentioned the forum anyway.

    2. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      @Mark, you are not allowed to have a life outside ISPreview, you should know that. you have to be at our beck and call 24/7.

      I am joking by the way, these people who think you should be I doubt they would be at work 24/7

  4. Avatar photo Anthony says:

    What if you use BitTorrent will Sky report your details then? This news article just screams “Don’t use sky”.

    1. Avatar photo Name says:

      Generally speaking a torrent should be fine. It only becomes a problem when there is copy-written material being torrented.

  5. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

    I have not used Torrent for a few years, I used to years ago to get music and yes, some pirated software. Most of the software I got using Torrent, I eventually went and got the legal version of it.

  6. Avatar photo RaptorX says:

    This such a *fabulous* reason not to use Sky. Why pay your ISP to sell you out to the enemy? It’s absolutely daft. BT aren’t much better.

    As I said in another thread, the smaller ISPs are much better with customer service and also won’t sell you out. AAIPS, Aquiss IDNET and a few others.

  7. Avatar photo RaptorX says:

    AAISP, sorry.

Comments are closed

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