In Depth

Court Orders YouTube Viewership Records Turned Over to Viacom

Google must turn over the records of videos watched on YouTube to Viacom, according to a ruling from the U.S. District Court for Southern New York in Viacom’s $1 billion copyright infringement lawsuit. The ruling Wednesday raises serious issues over privacy concerns.

That means detailed data on who’s watching what on the world’s biggest video-sharing site could be in Viacom’s hands.

According to the ruling, Google must provide YouTube user histories to Viacom, including the unique “login ID” of the user who watched a given video, the time the user started to watch the video and the Internet protocol address other devices connected to the Internet use to identify the user’s computer.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation called the ruling a threat to privacy. “The court’s erroneous ruling is a setback to privacy rights, and will allow Viacom to see what you are watching on YouTube,” the EFF wrote on its Web site. “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.”

Google had argued that turning over this data would be a violation of user privacy, but the court rejected that idea.

In a statement reported on CNET, Google said: “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 are asking Viacom to respect users’ privacy and allow us to anonymize the logs before producing them under the court’s order.”