Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Judge's Order Confirms Some Privacy Advocates' Fears

It is an 'I told you so' moment.

-Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center

In Miguel Helft, "Google Told to Turn Over User Data of YouTube," New York Times, July 4, 2008

Rotenberg was referrring to a federal judge's order to Google that it had to turn over to Viacom IP addresses and login names of users who watched which videos on YouTube, the Web's largest video site, which is owned by Google. Viacom is suing Google and YouTube, arguing that the firms' executives have been aware that a dominant activity on YouTube is the piracy of materials copyrighted by Viacom and other media firms.

Judge Louis L. Stanton of the Southern District of New York, who is presiding over the lawsuit used Google's past statements on I.P. addresses to conclude that its ''privacy concerns are speculative.'' Many privacy advocates strenuously disagree, and Google says it is working with Viacom to try to anonymize the data before turning them over. Moreover, Viacom states that only lawyers connected to the case will see the data. Nevertheless, privacy advocates point to the New York Times' ability to piece together the name of someone among AOL's supposedly anonymous data. And Rotenberg and others see this court decision as an example of what they have long feared: ways that supposedly secure data held by companies can become vulnerable to outside uses.

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