Backup Service Kicks Customer Over “Infringing” Torrent Files

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Cloud storage and backup service Zoolz has terminated the account of a customer who stored a few .torrent files on his computer. While the company boasts of handling customer data with "zero knowledge," the provider frequently scans customer files for infringing titles and metadata.

torrentsMost people who regularly use a computer know that it’s wise to have all critical data backed up. Whether it’s on a local hard drive or in the cloud, a copy can come in handy if something breaks.

Zoolz is one of the many commercial backup solutions. The company services regular customers but also business clients including Microsoft, Dell, the BBC and the Washington post.

Zoolz allows customers to backup their files in the cloud, including entire hard-drives. This is all done privately and securely, the company claims, with zero knowledge of what’s being transferred.

This zero knowledge claim has been called into doubt recently as one of Zoolz’ customers, Ryan Gallagher, had his account terminated after the company found several .torrent files in his backups. Gallagher didn’t store any infringing media, but just 1 Megabyte worth of old metadata.

Apparently, scanning for pirated filenames is standard practice at Zoolz, which is also explained in the product agreement.

“If Metadata checking (i.e. file names) reveals that an account has content relating to video piracy, software piracy or any copyrighted data with the intent to distribute (i.e. torrents) the account will be immediately terminated,” it reads.

And this is indeed what happened. Zoolz promptly notified the customer that his account would be terminated, and he was given a few days to transfer over a terabyte of data to a safer place.

“My account and all data (1.3TB) was nuked, they would not budge on deleting specific ‘prohibited file names’ saying they had no way to do it. It’s a complete waste of time and bandwidth,” former Zoolz customer Gallagher comments.

While there is nothing wrong with strict anti-piracy policies, deleting an entire account over a few small pieces of metadata goes pretty far. The .torrent files Zoolz found only reference pirated files, nothing more.

And it got even worse. When Geoff Akerlund of the Backup Review site confronted the company with its drastic actions, he was accused of supporting illegal behavior himself.

“We are sad to see you side with illegal behavior, the torrents could mean that the user has the actual media files, and downloading any media file without any proof of ownership is considered illegal,” Zoolz told him.

The backup service claims that the torrents “could” indicate that the user has a copy of the files as well, and that without proof of ownership terminating the account is warranted.

Aside from this rude behavior and terminating users accounts because they store non-infringing .torrent files, one has to wonder what business a backup provider has snooping through the computers of their customers.

In any case, Zoolz has “zero knowledge” of proper customer service.

Update: Zoolz has responded and issued the following statement.

“The flagging system is a deviation of the zero-knowledge policy only applicable to abusive home user accounts, not business users. It is completely automated at the time the abuser accesses the files from the web after entering the encryption password. The system will flag any account with suspicious bandwidth use, multiple access from different locations and will only scan for illegal filenames and not actual data. In rare cases the flagging system could generate false positive and we are currently working enhancing this and increasing the grace period. We have tens of thousands of home users who are happily using the system legally and the scanner has never been triggered on their accounts.”

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