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Real Life Internet Evil: Brilliant Digital Entertainment

By Richard Lowe
Posted Friday, November 26, 2004

Our purpose with this series is to use real life examples of deception, fraud and other evil to show how you can better protect yourself. The examples cited in these articles are intended to demonstrate best practices and recommendations.

What would you think about allowing someone to have unlimited access to your computer system without your knowledge or permission? Now, how do you feel about letting that person rent out your CPU, spare disk space and extra memory? Do you like the idea of these strangers downloading programs, data and lord knows what else to your machine and using your bandwidth?

A company called Brilliant Digital Entertainment has been quietly preparing to do just this. They have been distributing their "free" 3D advertising technology since last fall, and along with that software they have quietly been installing file-swapping software called Kazaa.

Brilliant Digital Entertainment has stated as a part of their SEC filing that they will soon be turning on a vast, multi-million machine P2P (point-to-point) network. This network consists of the machines belonging to those people who have downloaded and installed their software. The network is known as Altnet.

What does Brilliant want to do with this vast network? They have some very grand plans, but one major task is using these personally owned computers to store and serve ads (banners and other things). Their logic is described in an excerpt from their SEC filing:

"An example of Network Services is ad serving. When a user opens a new Web page, and the banner ad which appears on that page is delivered by a third party ad serving company, such as DoubleClick, the third party ad serving company incurs infrastructure, management, bandwidth and processing costs for every single banner ad which gets served. Often times, the same ad gets "served" millions of times each month. Using Altnet's proposed solutions, all of those ads could be delivered to the users via the Altnet network, thereby saving costs for third party ad serving companies."

Brilliant does have some vague plans in place to compensate the people involved in the network, at least some of them. Here's what their SEC filing says about that:

"To maximize the efficiency of the Altnet network, selected users with higher than average processing power, significant free space on their hard drives and broadband connectivity to the Internet, will first be engaged by Altnet to become main hubs on the network. We refer to each of these hubs as a qualified PC, or QPC. We intend to enter into an end user agreement with the owner of each QPC pursuant to which we will compensate the owner for access to and use of their computers while logged onto the Internet. We have yet to finalize the terms of compensation, however we anticipate it will be a combination of non-cash components, which may include gift certificates, products and/or access to video content, and we expect to initiate this process some time in Q2 2002."

According to other news reports, the end user will have the option to opt-out from this grand plan. The opt-out method (as well as the compensation for those who opt-in) is unspecified at this time, but will most likely be insignificant.

The SEC filing is a very interesting document, and goes on to explain in exhilarating terms the benefits and uses of this network. It's very clear that Brilliant see's lots of dollar signs in this concept.

Now for the big question: what is the benefit to the end user? Absolutely nothing. In fact, the end user's computer gets used to serve advertisements and perform other tasks as determined by Brilliant.

The disadvantages of this scheme are many:

Your computer gets used by others - Do you really want unknown, unnamed third parties to have direct access to your hard drive, memory and CPU power as well as your bandwidth? Do you want to trust this company, who covertly installed this software (yes, there is a clause in the Terms and Conditions, but it's pretty small and in legalize) throughout the world?

There is a risk of contamination - In theory, viruses and other dangers could be loaded onto your system. This is just another way for hackers and others to gain access and do whatever they want.

Your own documents could be at risk - Who knows what this software allows the vendor to do? Perhaps they are looking over your hard drive...

Automatic updates could damage your system - Ever installed something on your computer which caused it to become unusable or damaged? Well, I'd bet this software will have (or already has) the capability to update itself with new versions. Do you want to take the risk?

How do they protect your privacy? - Do you think this company has any real concern for your privacy? These guys want to make money.

I could go on and on about this concept and software. My advice is simple and straightforward - delete it or don't install it. This is a stupid idea and it deserves to be buried with the other bad internet concepts.

About the Author
Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets at ( - Visit our website any time to read over 1,000 complete FREE articles about how to improve your internet profits, enjoyment and knowledge.


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