Privacy of YouTube users under threat

The personal viewing habits and online identities of millions of YouTube users are to be handed over to an American media giant after a court rejected arguments that such a move amounted to a massive invasion of internet privacy.

Under the terms of a US court judgment, Google, which owns YouTube, must now surrender the details of video-watching histories, IP addresses and usernames, to Viacom, which wants to use the data to prove that the site is hosting thousands of television and other media clips in breach of strict copyright laws.

Last night, Google said it intended to comply with the court order and confirmed the ruling would affect "our global log". At this stage, the company had no plans to appeal against the ruling, a Google spokesman said.

Privacy groups described the ruling as a dangerous precedent that could lead to worldwide breaches of internet privacy.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an internet rights group, said the ruling will allow Viacom to see what everyone is watching on YouTube. "We urge Viacom to back off this overbroad request and Google to take all steps necessary to challenge this order and protect the rights of its users," the group said.

Viacom, which owns several US television networks including MTV and Nickelodeon, alleged in a $1bn (£50m) US lawsuit launched in March 2007 that almost 160,000 unauthorised clips of its programmes are available on YouTube. Those clips have been viewed more than 1.5 billion times, the company claims.

Its lawyers argued it needed access to the information on user viewing habits to prove that copyright-infringing material is more popular than user-generated videos on YouTube, which would strengthen its case against Google.

In its judgment, the US District Court for the southern district of New York agreed with Viacom and ordered Google to turn over the information. Google argued that user data should not be handed over because of privacy concerns, but Judge Louis Stanton dismissed those concerns as "speculative". Viacom also asked for the underlying code that Google and YouTube use to search for keywords and video in order to demonstrate what Google could be doing to block infringing videos. They also wanted access to Google's advertising database scheme in the hopes of proving that infringing videos are driving advertising revenue.

But the court rejected all of those requests, arguing that the code and advertising data was too valuable to Google.

Google hopes to limit the damage of the ruling by seeking assurances from Viacom that it will respect users' privacy.

Google's senior litigation counsel, Catherine Lacavera said yesterday: "We are pleased the court put some limits on discovery, including refusing to allow Viacom to access users' private videos and our search technology. We are disappointed the court granted Viacom's overreaching demand for viewing history. We will ask Viacom to respect users' privacy and allow us to anonymise the logs before producing them under the court's order."

Asked what the company would do if Viacom declined to co-operate with its request, a Google spokesman said: "All we can say right now is that we ask Viacom to respect users' privacy and allow us to anonymise the logs before producing them under the court's order. We cannot comment further."

Viacom's claims

160,000 The number of its unauthorised programmes that the US media company alleges are available to watch on YouTube.

1,500,000,000 The number of times that Viacom claims those clips have been viewed.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Life and Style
fashion

News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
News
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
news

Video: It is the type of thing no parent wants to hear

Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: Business Development Manager

Competitive: Opilio Recruitment: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a Bu...

Recruitment Genius: Systems / Network Administrator

£35000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning internet, do...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunity for someone l...

Opilio Recruitment: Technical Recruiter

£35k - 42k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We have an exciting oppo...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game