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YouTube and Viacom Showdown: Your Data Becomes Not So Private


By: Corey Tate

I've heard it said that  YouTube knows more about you than your mother. That's probably true, since they know what you've been searching for and what YouTube videos you've watched. Now  Viacom will know more than your mother as well, because a judge just ordered YouTube to hand over all of that information as part of the ongong YouTube-Viacom court battle.


Viacom requested the information to help build its case on the $1 billion copyright infringement lawsuit against YouTube, and thus Google.


The judge's order raises concerns for privacy advocates like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and YouTube users. The IP addresses (like the address numbers on your home, but for your computer) and viewing habits of tens of millions of people will be not so private anymore.


The gray area here is that although the IP address does not give Viacom your name, it does give them a way to track you down in case they want to file a lawsuit against you for uploading copyright infringing videos.


Take a look at the tactics pursued by the RIAA to hold users accountable for their actions with the P2P arena, and you'll find that the first step to their tracking down users was to contact Internet service Providers with the IP addresses of their customers. From there, they would send letters to the users to initiate the legal process, and sue the users for copyright infringement.


A statement from Viacom contends that the data will only be used for the YouTube-Viacom case. "Viacom has not asked for and will not be obtaining any personally identifiable information of any user. Any information that we or our outside advisors obtain -- which will not include personally identifiable information -- will be used exclusively for the purpose of proving our case against You Tube and Google, will be handled subject to a court protective order and in a highly confidential manner."


Part of the response from Google has been to add a privacy link to the bottom their home page that links to their Privacy Center. Google also had tried to argue that the IP address' and account names should be redacted, or blocked oout, prior to handing the information over to Viacom. The Judge said no.


A posting Google's Public Policy Blog reads "The new "Privacy" link goes to our privacy center, which was revamped earlier this year to be more straightforward and approachable with videos and a non-legalese "Privacy Overview" to make sure users understand in basic terms what Google does, doesn't, will, and won't do in regard their personal information."


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