Will the Viacom vs. YouTube Court Order Threaten Users’ Privacy?

A court order is forcing Google to turnover YouTube user data to Viacom which is stirring up privacy fears over the Internet.

U.S. District Judge Louis L. Stanton for the Southern District of New York filed on Wednesday for Google to turn over user data to Viacom for videos uploaded and played on the multimedia site. In the $1 billion dollar lawsuit, YouTube must turn over terabytes of logs to Viacom showing video-viewing habits to crack down on video piracy. This has caused an upset amongst web users due to privacy fears.

The information Viacom had sought involved the user data in its original format, but Viacom stated in a statement after privacy advocates voiced their concerns which stated, “Viacom has not asked for and will not be obtaining any personally identifiable information of any user.” Currently it is being reported that Viacom will only be able to see what IP addresses watched which videos and uploaded videos, which is still a privacy nightmare for most since the company could get in contact with the ISP’s to try to pinpoint who actually was using the IP at that given time. However, this approach could be unlikely due to the number of individuals who use proxies and other internet protection software which would make it unreliable.

Although user names are not an official pursuit for Viacom, YouTube may very well have to turn over all data with IP records included. For the sake of Goggle web users, Google wants to protect users privacy by removing any data such as user names and IP addresses, but the company is quoted as putting its foot in its mouth due to a post on its Google Public Policy blog in February which was referenced in the judges order to hand over data. The post states, “the IP addresses recorded by every website on the planet without additional information should not be considered personal data, because these websites usually cannot identify the human beings behind these number strings.”

According to Google senior litigation counsel Catherine Lacavera she stated in an email statement Thursday, “We are disappointed the court approved Viacom’s overreaching demand for viewing history.”

Viacom has been allegedly asking for an outrageous amount of information which even includes the source code for the search function that powers both Google and YouTube as well as information of every video removed from the site, database information on videos hosted on YouTube, and copies of all private videos.

“Google need not disclose its search code to Viacom, but its YouTube subsidiary must disclose a database listing who watched what video, when, and from where,” Judge Stanton ordered.

Viacom Inc., owns Comedy Central, VH1 and Nickelodeon, amongst others.

One would find this as a disappointment as Viacom has been pointed as using the video sharing host themselves to serve videos. Could this suit actually take a twist?

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