The controversy surrounding media center software Kodi and the Kodi box is a well-known one. Though the developers try to distance themselves from the issue of pirated content, any device running Kodi is being targeted, not only by the UK’s Digital Economy Act that recently received The Royal Nod, but by at least two major technology companies – Amazon and Microsoft. But for the 5 million Kodi box owners in the UK, there could be a way out.
Amazon got the ball rolling recently by banning all sales of set-top boxes with Kodi software, even though Kodi has been prolifically loaded on its own Fire TV Sticks around the world for the longest time. In fact, it may have even helped boost Fire TV’s overall sales. But that hasn’t stopped Amazon from banning all sellers of any type of Kodi box.
One plausible reason for such stringent action is that companies with an international presence need to walk a very fine line between pleasing users and complying with local laws. They have to be seen as proactive about implementing copyright protection and anti-piracy policies. For Amazon, there’s yet another element that comes into play – Prime Video.
After the free two-day shipping benefit for Amazon Prime users, the biggest reason to join up has been unlimited streaming video. And with Amazon pushing hard on the video front in recent months – picking up several accolades along the way – the video angle is crucial to Prime growth. That’s as true in the UK as it is in the United States; perhaps even more so, now that Amazon is almost about to break the $10 billion sales barrier in the United Kingdom.
Even worse for those who download torrent media, Microsoft is now in on the game with a newly patented technology that can identify and block shared content, where such sharing violates the copyright holder’s rights. As long as that content is stored in a shared location (we’re assuming they’re talking about OneDrive), the account holder may be penalized.
This is what Microsoft’s patent says, in part:
“Objects in a shared storage system can be marked as including prohibited content.
“Incidents that result in objects being so marked can be stored in an incident history associated with a user responsible for those objects.
“The incident history can be processed to identify repeat offenders and modify access privileges of those users.
“However, when objects are shared by one user with another user, prohibited content is blocked from being shared, while the remainder of the shared objects can be accessed by the other user.
“Functions that allow sharing of content are implemented so as prevent sharing of prohibited content with another user, while allowing other content to be shared. If a group of files or objects is shared, then the presence of prohibited content in one object in the group results in that prohibited content not being shared, but the remaining files or objects are still shared.”
Knowing Microsoft’s stand on user privacy, it’s not likely that they will share this data with authorities, but it’s well within their capability and right to block such content and suspend or modify user access for accounts within their cloud computing infrastructure. That means all users of cloud-based utilities that come with Office 365 subscriptions could be the target of this patent, once the technology is implemented.
What Can Kodi Box Users Do?
One emerging solution to maintaining anonymity while on the Internet has been VPNs, or virtual private networks. But it’s difficult to find the right service provider because the majority of them claim one thing but don’t deliver to expectations.
In some cases, they use third-party service providers for development or customer support or some other upstream or downstream requirement for the product itself. In other cases, web traffic could be logged despite what they advertise. In still other instances, their servers are not their own.
All of these are privacy holes that could spring a leak at any time, compromising the identities of users.
So far, one of the best we’ve come across is IPVanish. They own all their assets, they do not use any third-party service providers and they have a very strict zero-logging policy for user web activity. That’s the most likely one to keep you completely anonymous on the web. In fact, the product itself has been optimized especially for Kodi box users and the Kodi software, the company says.
That said, you should research the top VPN services to compare their features so you can make a more informed decision. This VPN comparison chart excerpt from PCMag updated on May 8, 2017 should help.
If you’re a Kodi box user and you’re worried about your privacy, then a robust VPN service is an absolute must. The question is not one of what type of content you want to stream, but whether you think it’s fine for Internet Service Providers, technology companies and government regulators to track your activities online and decide what’s right for you and what’s not.