Blown To Bits

Ever watch YouTube? Your records are going to Viacom

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008 by Harry Lewis

The worlds of copyright and privacy collided on Tuesday to cause a massive, privacy-shattering digital explosion. A judge ordered Google, which owns YouTube, to turn over to Viacom all its records of who has watched what videos. What clip, under what name, and from what IP address. Viacom is suing Google for accommodating its copyrighted materials on YouTube, and the judge dismissed privacy arguments Google tried to mount as “speculative.” The story is here and the judge’s order is here. (Thanks to Wired’s blog for these.)

Readers of Blown to Bits will recall how easily “anonymized” search records were de-identified, so there is serious reason to doubt that the fact that YouTube users are free to choose non-identifying login names will really protect their privacy.

The logs themselves comprise twelve TERABYTEs of data. There are lots of things that can be done with that data and there are lots of ways it can go astray ….

The judge denied various other requests of the plaintiffs, including a request for the source code of the Google search engine itself, supposedly so the plaintiff could check if Google was doing something special to make infringing material more attractive.

But the judge did require Google to turn over every video it has ever taken down for any reason, so Viacom can sort through them and draw their own conclusions about why. So if you ever put up a video while you were drunk and then changed your mind in the cold light of day, it’s part of the evidence in this court case now.

So much for the illusion that watching YouTube is like watching TV. But I’m sure there’s no reason to be worried about all those activity logs. Surely everyone will understand that you were just horsing around when you were watching that stuff ‚Ķ or maybe you were conducting research, yes, that’s what you were doing ‚Ķ.

One Response to “Ever watch YouTube? Your records are going to Viacom”

  1. Blown to Bits » Blog Archive » An international wrinkle on the YouTube order Says:

    […] Ever watch YouTube? Your records are going to Viacom […]