Google wins agreement to anonymise YouTube logs

But it still might have to reveal which of its staff have uploaded material to the video-sharing site

Barry Collins Reuters
15 Jul 2008

Google and Viacom have reached a deal to protect the privacy of millions of YouTube watchers.

Earlier this month, a New York federal judge ordered Google to turn over YouTube user data to Viacom and other plaintiffs to help them prepare a confidential study of what they argue are vast piracy violations on the video-sharing site.

Google claims it had now agreed to provide plaintiffs' attorneys with a version of a massive viewership database that blanks out YouTube usernames and IP addresses that could be used to identify individual video watchers.

"We have reached agreement with Viacom and the class action group [led by the English Football Assocation]," Google spokesman Ricardo Reyes claims. "They have agreed to let us anonymise YouTube user data."

Yesterday, it was claimed that Viacom wanted details of what videos had been watched and uploaded by Google staff in a bid to prove the company's staff were aware of illegal material being uploaded on to the site.

In a legal stipulation agreed to by attorneys for all major parties in the case, the sides agreed that the new data privacy agreement did not cover employees and that they would work out how to share this data separately in coming weeks.

£1 billion lawsuit

Viacom, owner of movie studio Paramount and MTV Networks, requested the information as part of its $1 billion copyright infringement lawsuit against YouTube and its deep-pocketed parent, Google.

Judge Louis Stanton of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York ordered Google on 1 July to turn over as evidence a database with usernames of YouTube viewers, what videos they watched when, and users' IP addresses.

Privacy activists from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other groups argued in response that the order "threatens to expose deeply private information" and violated the Video Privacy Protection Act, a 1988 law passed after Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork's video rental habits were revealed.

Viacom said at the time that it needed the data to demonstrate video piracy patterns that are the heart of its case against YouTube. But it sought to diffuse privacy fears, saying it had no interest in identifying individual users.

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