Posted July 3, 2008 9:35 am by with 29 comments

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Just yesterday, I had a conversation, agreeing that the only thing that could topple Google, would be privacy. The same day, a judge presiding over the Google/Viacom case issued a court order requiring Google to turn over your personal data.

The EFF reports the order requires Google to hand over YouTube’s Logging database. What’s in YouTube’s logging database?

…for each instance a video is watched, the unique “login ID” of the user who watched it, the time when the user started to watch the video, the internet protocol address other devices connected to the internet use to identify the user’s computer (“IP address”), and the identifier for the video.

I’ve bolded the entire text, because this is serious Pilgrims! If Google complies, potentially millions of YouTube users will have their private details handed to Viacom!

The EFF states that the judge has likely broken the law, with his ruling–your video viewing preferences are supposedly protected by the Video Privacy Protection Act.

Over at TechCrunch, Michael Arrington speculates that Viacom only requested this information, so that it may determine who watched copyrighted content, and sue them too.

I’ll close, echoing Arrington’s sentiment:

I say this with the utmost respect, but Judge Stanton is a moron. And Google simply cannot hand this data over without facing a class action lawsuit of staggering proportions.

The ball’s in your court now Google. Throw us users under the bus, and we might just do the same to you!

  • This is gone too far. If this does happen I will stop watching Youtube videos. Do they not have to tell you what they are planning to use the database for?

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  • David

    Sad news. Viacom better start remembering that the people whose privacy they’re about to violate are also their viewers.

    If I were Viacom, I would be real worried about people starting to boycott my brands over this…

  • Yeah, I’m also thinking that’s Viacom’s motive–to determine who watched copyrighted contents, and sue them as well. If this would be the case, it’ll be unfair for the viewers of those streaming videos.

  • Hi Andy

    I am really worried about any of this large scale log information. Alone each piece has staggering amounts of information about users. When you start combining those log files together, it’s scary. Combine enough log files from say Amazon, Google Search, YouTube etc and they will know about you than your wife.

    I’ve said it for years. Data is the new currency.

  • So, we’re okay with Google tracking our information so they can profile (advertise to) us, but we’d rather the courts not have the information. I’m not a fan of either scenario.

    Maybe the courts, government, google, etc. are going to profile potential criminals with this information… watch a video pertaining to any type of criminal activity (let your mind go wild > drugs, violence, terrorism, etc.) and you go on a watch list.

    I see a new industry popping up here :: scrubbed profiles for sale.

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  • @Mike – when you sign up for a service, you expect that company to have access to your data. You don’t expect it to be handed over to a completely different company. 🙁

  • Time to starting using proxies to watch YouTube.

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  • Let’s use bots to confuse YouTube logging data.

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  • Scary stuff indeed! The ability to detect “undesirables” is kept at arms length by the “law”. It’s simple, if we feel our information isn’t safe, your service will not be used any more. It’s as simple as that. Somebody will profit from creating an alternative. Love to see where this is going!

  • Wow. This is pretty crazy. We agree that the information given is good for advertising purposes but certainly not for this. Hopefully this does not happen.

  • While the Judge may be a schmuck, Google isn’t. Or at least their lawyers aren’t. I find it hard to believe they will willingly give up this information. They understand the online implications, even if the legal system doesn’t.

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  • Go ahead and sue the 14 year olds watching clips of South Park, mmmkay?

    No, really. How can you sue someone for watching content that they may not be aware violates copyright? If you search for “penguin falls through ice” and find a March of the Penguins clip illegally uploaded and *gasp* watch it – that’s not the crime. The crime is uploading it, if that’s what the law is.

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  • I will be surprised if there is no appeal and a stay on execution. I suspect that the full implication of the judgment was not understood by the judge.

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  • This is getting out of control. Can’t we all just feel safe when we want to watch a video on youtube? Is that to hard to ask?

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  • PS3

    Is it really that simple Linda? People talk of fair or personal usage but I find it hard to keep track of what you can and can’t do.

    “I say this with the utmost respect, but Judge Stanton is a moron” – classic !

  • This is just another case of judges not understanding new technologies. They often judge with mechanisms in their mind that just dont work on the internet. There are many similar cases of stupid decisions here in Europe.

  • It is really sad. Actually bad news are always sad

  • Happy 4th to you as well. I really liked Google’s logo and image for the 4th of July. I have noticed that Google is starting some very complex tactics in its ranking system. Yahoo better follow quickly because it will be left behind in the dust.

    God Bless!


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  • The rumour has it, they will try to get a few individuals watching copyrighted content which I think is a load of rubbish because you can’t expect Youtube users to go and check every video they watch for copyright. Its up to Google to do this.

    Mr Marketing’s last blog post..The website is down!

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  • This is absolutely ridiculous. If Arrington is right, why would Viacom waste money with all those court orders on people who watched the videos. There’s no way they could take all those people to court, so it’s obviously just to bully people out of watching it, and bully google to get stricter.

    Why can’t big companies just embrace technology. Just because they can’t find a way to utilize it doesn’t mean they should pull this goofy stuff.

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  • @andy I’m with you on the company having access to our data… I just wish I knew for sure that data would be totally confidential. I don’t see that happening. Somebody, somewhere, will get permission from someone, somewhere, to have that data turned over to them. It really is “Big Brother”.

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  • Mike… I agree with you and Andy, they need to keep it confidential. I can agree with Google using it to make my viewing experience better, or at least ask me if I want them to use it to keep my viewing experience better. But aside from telling other people how many times a video has been viewed, I don’t think others should be allowed to have this information. Copyright or not.

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  • Apparently a few regular Youtube publishers are now getting together for a possible legal action. I doubt they will have much of a chance on their own.

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  • This is ridiculous, its our privacy. This will change the face of video on the Internet.

  • I can’t believe that a judge would force Google to give up their users information. Just what is Viacom up to. Most likely nothing good for the You Tube viewers. What about those people that aren’t viewing copywritten content. How is it fair for their information to be compromised.

  • PS3

    I can quite believe it, judges are a law unto themselves.

  • This sets a *very* dangerous precedent and is a gross invasion of privacy.

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