You may have never heard of youhavedownloaded.com, but if you recently grabbed movies, music or software from online file-trading networks, chances are decent that the site has heard of you. In fact, you may find that the titles you downloaded are now listed and publicly searchable at the site, indexed by your Internet address.
In many ways, the technology behind the site merely recreates in a publicly searchable way what the entertainment industry has been doing for years: It tracks and records information that users share when they download and upload files on public peer-to-peer file-trading networks. But the free service does have the potential to make people think twice about downloading pirated movies, games and music, because it shows how easily this information can be discovered and archived.
So far, youhavedownloaded.com has recorded more than 50 million unique Internet addresses belonging to file-sharing users. The site is searchable by file name and by Internet address. When you visit, it automatically checks and lets you know if your Internet address is in the database.
Youhavedownloaded.com offers only limited information about its founders. One of them is Suren Ter-Saakov, a Russian native who now lives in a suburb of Philadelphia. I first interviewed Ter-Saakov for a story I wrote in 2009 about the Federal Trade Commission’s unprecedented takedown of troubled Web hosting firm Triple Fiber Network (3FN). The FTC alleged it was hard to find any customers at 3FN that had legitimate, legal content. Ter-Saakov, better known in the Russian Webmaster industry as Mauser, disagreed and successfully sued the FTC to retrieve his domains and servers.
Ter-Saakov said he believes youhavedownloaded.com indexes about 20 percent of the file-sharing activity on the Internet. He maintains that the site was created merely as a proof-of-concept, and that it doesn’t have any commercial application.
“The whole thing started with a theoretical discussion I had with some friends about what is possible to track through software and what is not possible,” Ter-Saakov said in a phone interview. Continue reading →