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YouTube Ordered to Turn Over All User Records to Viacom

YouTube Ordered to Turn Over All User Records to Viacom

by , 10:55 AM EDT, July 3rd, 2008

YouTube users may have lost some of their privacy now that a judge has ordered its parent company Google to surrender every YouTube user's name, IP address and viewing history to Viacom. The order was issued on Wednesday at Viacom's request as part of the company's lawsuit against YouTube for copyright infringement, according to Wired.

Viacom alleged in its lawsuit that Google is responsible for allowing clips of copyright protected videos on the YouTube Web site. The company is asking for more than US$1 billion in damages.

The broadcaster is hoping that by getting its hands on YouTube's detailed records, it can show that copyright-infringing content is more popular than user-created content. Viacom plans to use the data it collects to show that Google has a higher level of liability for the copyright-protected content that appears on YouTube.

Google claims that it and YouTube are protected by a "safe harbor" law for online services because YouTube complies with copyright takedown notices.

For Viacom, however, that's not good enough. The broadcaster plans to sift through every personal record from YouTube, regardless of whether or not a user viewed Viacom owned content, and use that data as it sees fit in its case. The company also won a request that will force YouTube to provide a copy of every video it has ever pulled from the site even if those videos do not relate to Viacom.

The judge's ruling raised red flags for individuals and organizations concerned with privacy rights, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation has already responded to say that the court order is a clear violation of the Video Privacy Protection Act and "threatens to expose deeply private information." Google also requested that the requests be denied to protect user privacy.

The court disagreed with Google and the public, and called Google's argument that turning over so much information would be a violation of user privacy "speculative."

While the orders look like a landslide win for Viacom and a big loss for user privacy, the court did deny at least a few of Viacom's requests. Motions to force Google to turn over YouTube's source code, it's own advertising database schema, and copies of all videos tagged as private were denied.

What Viacom does with the massive amounts of personal information Google is required to now surrender is one concern. Another is how that will data be protected once it changes hands. Considering Viacom's goals, the likelihood that all of the private user data it obtains from YouTube will stay private seems slim.

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