Two days ago saw news filter through that the judge in the Viacom Vs. YouTube court case over copyrighted material, had granted Viacom its wish to see records of YouTube users viewing histories, user names, and IP addresses.
Viacom wants the records, which will reportedly amount to data in excess of 12 terabytes, to show that copyrighted content is much more popular on the site than user-generated content.
Using Google’s Own Policy Against it
The judge made the decision he did using Google’s own policy on keeping records of people’s IP addresses, and a blog post from February stating how this doesn’t amount to personal data because an IP address alone cannot be used to identify a person.
Cyndy Aleo-Carreira at Profy has argued that rather than the judge deserving all the flack he has been getting since making the admittedly ill-advised decision, Google itself should take the brunt of the blame due to wanting it both ways.
She’s right, as Google has now argued the case for both sides, at one time insisting that IP addresses are not important, but now rallying against the decision to give them out to Viacom when requested to do so.
Google has now itself responded to the judge’s decision, posting an entry on the official YouTube Blog. The company promises to comply with the judge’s order, but states that it is seeking to remove IP addresses and user names from the records before they get handed over.
Which is fair enough, but the more interesting part is the explanation justifying Google keeping this kind of information in the first place, which makes me ask all sorts of new questions rather than feel satisfied.
Justified Privacy Infringements?
Google’s main justification is that it needs the information in order to help “personalize the YouTube experience”. This is due to the features surrounding video recommendations and related videos: features I never use, and would rather be turned off.
Maybe that should be an option, as I’d personally rather have just a very basic, no frills YouTube experience and be safe in the knowledge that my IP address, and viewing habits aren’t being stored on some vast database somewhere.
Before this decision by the judge in favour of Viacom’s request, this issue hadn’t even crossed my mind, but now, in light of the information sharing that is going to take place, I’m apprehensive about even signing in to YouTube.
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