Friday, July 04, 2008

Viacom v. Google

Today's press is filled with the news that Google has been ordered by a court to hand over records of every single viewing of YouTube videos. These records would include YouTube user IDs (often real names) and Internet Protocol addresses — which independent experts agree are identifying personal data, whatever the protestations of Google.

This court decision is a grossly disproportionate response to allegations of copyright infringement by some YouTube users. A court-appointed expert could have determined roughly what percentage of videos viewed on the site were infringing without any personal data being handed over.

I did an interview today for Channel 4 News pointing out how difficult it is to provide this quantity of data in anonymised form. Simply replacing user IDs and IP addresses with pseudonyms is not nearly enough. Unfortunately the lawyer interviewed from Pinsent Masons hasn't yet got with this programme.

The lesson for the future is that Internet sites like YouTube, Google (and many, many others) should not be amassing such quantities of personally identifying information. Courts and legislatures simply cannot resist the appeal of access.

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