YouTube vs. Viacom … what about privacy?

Most of you have probably heard about the case where a judge ordered Google to turn over every record of every video watched by YouTube user. That includes the user’s name and IP addresses. This in response to complaint filed by Viacom against Google for allowing clips of its copyright videos to appear on YouTube. Read about it here. This is the actual ruling from the judge.

I am not going to comment on the copyright issues or the actual complaint filed. I am however worried about the consequences for online privacy. A lot of users will see their personal information being handed over to Viacom even though they probably never watched a single copyrighted clip or at least were not aware of infringing anyone’s copyright. Somehow this reminds me of the toystar.com case. A company selling toys, files for bankrupcy and tries to sell their customer database to the highest bidder. It was eventually stopped by the FTC.

People can hand out personal information to sites and even carefully review the privacy terms before doing so. It means nothing if this kind of rulings can mean your information is handed over to a third party. It would be a different case if that information helps law enforcement agencies to detect crimes and prosecute criminals. I trust law enforcement agencies more then Viacom to properly process that data. Does Viacom give any guarantees on safeguarding this data? Will the processing be transparant and with full disclosure to the users involved?

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