06 July 2008

Ever been to YouTube?

If so, then you have a good reason to be concerned now. A judge in the US recently ordered Google to turn over all information on YouTube viewers to Viacom, parent company of channels like CBS and MTV. Viacom claims that too many people are watching its shows on YouTube and has launched a $1 billion dollar lawsuit to recoup lost revenue. Or something.

So, now every person who has ever visited YouTube is having personal data handed over to a corporation who never asked permission to claim it. Yup. Every person. Every single vistor since the site launched in 2005. According to some (see below), that's virtually every person who has ever used the internet.

But don't worry, third-part lawyers are going to sift through the billions of hits to sort out which ones will help Viacom with its lawsuit.

As you can imagine, Google is sad about this. On the one hand, it means that data which could blow their defense out of the water is now in the hands of the plaintiff. On the other hand, all the whiney privacy advocates who have been saying that Google has always gathered and sotred far too much user data to begin with now have some more ammo. "If you didn't store that data in the first place," they might say, "Viacom wouldn't be able to find out how much soft porn I search!"

They have a point.

And while most people are harmlessly sifting through for the latest offering by Lil' Wayne or sxephil's latest commentary, even the perviest user doesn't deserve to have their personal info turned over.

At this point, I'm not sure that there's anything you can do about it, but you can certainly ask YouTube and Google what they're planning on doing in the future to protect you. You can also check in with the Privacy Commisioner (Canadians only) to see what the ruling means. Because the last thing you need is a cop knocking on your door and busting you for watching that episode of Tila Tequila online.

Read more about the verdict at the New York Times.

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