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Human Potential in the Age of Exponential Tech

Seriously? Viacom wins right to YouTube viewer logs

The BBC reported today that Viacom (for a funny definition that I agree with courtesy of urbandictionary.com click here) has won a court ruling against Google who must now hand over Youtube’s view logs which include the viewing habits of anyone who has ever watched a video on the site.

Viacom is alleging Copyright infringement, as they estimate there are currently 160,000 unauthorized clips of the company’s material that have been viewed 1.5 Billion times. The ruling is being called a “set-back to privacy rights” by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

But wait, there’s more. Privacy experts at lashing out at the usually benevolent internet giant for continuing to use IP addresses when they can be tracked back to users.
A Snippet from the Article:

Google

‘Erroneous ruling’

Leading privacy expert Simon Davies told BBC News that the privacy of millions of YouTube users was threatened.

He said: “The chickens have come home to roost for Google.

“Their arrogance and refusal to listen to friendly advice has resulted in the privacy of tens of millions being placed under threat.”

Mr Davies said privacy campaigners had warned Google for years that IP addresses were personally identifiable information.

Google pledged last year to anonymise IP addresses for search information but it has said nothing about YouTube data.

Mr Davies said: “Governments and organisations are realising that companies like Google have a warehouse full of data. And while that data is stored it is under threat of being used and putting privacy in danger.”

The EFF said: “The Court’s erroneous ruling is a set-back to privacy rights, and will allow Viacom to see what you are watching on YouTube.

“We urge Viacom to back off this overbroad request and Google to take all steps necessary to challenge this order and protect the rights of its users.”

The body said the ruling was also potentially unlawful because the log data did contain personally identifiable data.

The court also ruled that Google disclose to Viacom the details of all videos that have been removed from the site for any reason.

What this means:

If ‘ol Rupert wanted to, he’d be able to figure out exactly which videos a particular user has viewed. While that’s not enough to reveal your identity necessarily, privacy experts worry that this information might be easy to extrapolate given that many people have personal a YouTube id that is personal, or might even include their name. Mix that in with your computer’s IP address and someone who was interested enough could probably put the pieces together and figure out who you are.

Keep in mind, that IP addresses are provided by your ISP, and usually change over time, which means that Viacom would have to call up Rogers to get that information, and that will usually mean needing to have a court order. Plus, Viacom hasn’t declared any intent to hunt down the culprit youtube users. (Hey Viacom, here’s a hint: it’s all of us.)

And over at the GooglePlex…

Somewhere on that beautiful campus, there are a team of Google lawyers meeting in a room full of plastic balls to discuss the situation. Currently, Google doesn’t think they should hand the log over because of the aforementioned privacy concerns. They will most likely challenge this order.

Privacy associations like the Electronic Fronteir Foundation is demanding Vicaom “Back off this overbroad request” To which Viacom cackled evilly and resumed their plans to build the death star.

Instead of the War on Terror, CNN should be monitoring the War On Privacy. It’s eroding right beneath our noses if we don’t all wake up and do something about it.

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