Privacy under attack once again.

July 3, 2008 at 11:01 | Posted in Privacy/Security, Vod/Pod casts | Comments Off on Privacy under attack once again.
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Yet another court order has resulted in a sweeping disclosure of information that should have remained private. See story here and here.

Although it is good to see that Viacom did not get everything it was asking for it is distressing that the judge in this case seems to have placed more importance on the IP rights of Google (a major corporation) then it did on the rights of the (I’m guessing) millions of YouTube users.

Hopefully the EFF will file an amicus brief pointing out what they see as an error on the judges part when it comes to the VPPA. Although it looks like they are giving the parties involved a chance to take corrective action first.

The Court’s erroneous ruling is a set-back to privacy rights, and will allow Viacom to see what you are watching on YouTube. We urge Viacom to back off this over broad request and Google to take all steps necessary to challenge this order and protect the rights of its users.

I however greatly doubt that Viacom will be the one to step back from this as what they have won will allow them to go after individual video uploaders should their case against Google tank. In fact they may not even wait for that and start going after users once they get the info.

From the second article listed above it is quite clear that Viacom was on a major fishing expedition and almost looks like that were trying to get enough info to just go and set up their own YouTube like service.

I am glad that the judge protected “private videos”, but that doesn’t stop the viewing and posting habits of millions of users from being disclosed, and since the information that is going to be disclosed will contain what people viewed, it may reveal the “private videos” anyways because although they may not see it from the posting side it might be included in the viewing side of the data. (unless Google does a stellar job at sanitizing the data before handing it over).

All this just makes me glad I never got a YouTube account. I’d hate to have Viacom breathing down my neck because the name of my Vlog, or other posting happened to look like something that maybe they owned.

This decision (if not reversed) will of course embolden Viacom and others and we may shortly see all of the video sharing sites being harassed in the courts for similar data. These companies would love this, not just for the info it would provide them, but also for the chilling effect it would have on the posting of non-infringing user generated videos that are the real threat to their long term survival. If they loose control of the means of production and the means of distribution they’ve lost the game (well, in truth they already have it’ll just take a while for the world to catch up). Most Vloggers can’t afford to be drawn into court by huge companies like Viacom, even on a baseless case. So the fear of such happening, because these companies can get a list of who is posting what, and then go after people base on what ever baseless charges they think will be effective enough to drag the person into an expensive court case. Could have a major chilling effect.

Happily there are video sharing services that are outside the reach of the U.S. court system and thus my be subject to saner court decisions.

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