<>< Josh Rule : : 2008 MCPP Intern
A U.S. legal battle between Google and entertainment giant Viacom could have worldwide ramifications (but it probably won’t). The court recently ruled that the Google-owned Youtube must release a log of of every video ever watched on the site. Youtube has served billions of video views, and each time a user clicks on a video to watch it, an entry is recorded in Youtube’s digital log. In it are recorded the username of the viewer if they are signed in, as well as the video watched, and the IP address from which the video is watched, among other information. All this data will soon be provided to the court and to Viacom. Viacom hopes to use the information to prove that users prefer to watch copyrighted material, illegally posted on Youtube, over the uncopyrighted material the site was designed to host.
The reason such a ruling makes it here onto Trying Liberty, though, is that usernames and IP addresses are potentially personally identifying information. IP addresses, particularly, can link a specific view of a specific clip on Youtube back to a specific computer somewhere in the world. Indeed, the physical mailing address at which the video was watched can often be determined quite accurately with only the IP address recorded in Youtube’s log files. Providing more than 12 TB of logs (about 10 TB would hold the entire Library of Congress) also provides a wealth of IP addresses and exposes the viewing habits of millions of Youtube users. Such a massive data transfer could be claimed as an invasion of privacy, as it potentially links specific people to having watched specific videos on Youtube.
(Thanks to BBC News for the story.)