YouTube user data must be turned over to Viacom, judge rules

A federal judge this week ordered Google to provide Viacom with records of which users watched which videos on YouTube. The ruling raises fears that the video viewing histories of tens of millions of people could be exposed. The sheer amount of data we're talking about here is massive — for each and every YouTube video ever watched since YouTube launched in 2005, Google now has to to turn over to Viacom the login name of every user who had watched every video, and their the IP addresses.

Snip from NYT story by Miguel Helft:

Google and Viacom said they were hoping to come up with a way to protect the anonymity of the site's visitors. Viacom also said that the information would be safeguarded by a protective order restricting access to the data to outside lawyers, who will use it solely to press Viacom's $1 billion copyright suit against Google.

Still, the judge's order, which was made public late Wednesday, renewed concerns among privacy advocates that Internet companies like Google are collecting unprecedented amounts of private information that could be misused or fall unexpectedly into the hands of third parties.

"These very large databases of transactional information become honey pots for law enforcement or for litigants," said Chris Hoofnagle, a senior fellow at the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology.

Google Told to Turn Over User Data of YouTube [New York Times]

Update: Here's a related statement from the EFF.