Google/Viacom Agree To Preserve User Anonymity In Data Shakedown

The Google-Viacom showdown over the handover of YouTube user data appears to be over. The two sides agreed to changes in a previous ruling that would have required Google to hand over user id’s, IP addresses and a list of all viewed YouTube videos to Viacom in connection with their ongoing copyright infringement litigation.

After an online uprising against the order, Viacom tried to assert that they never requested personally identifiable information (they did), and later promised not to use the information to sue individuals. The value of that promise was questioned by us and many others.

The new order, filed this evening, states that Google will substitue user id’s and IP addresses for anonymous but unique identifiers. The full order is below, but the key language is:

When producing data from the Logging Database pursuant to the Order, Defendants shall substitute values while preserving uniqueness for entries in the following fields: User ID, IP Address and Visitor ID. The parties shall agree as promptly as feasible on a specific protocol to govern this substitution whereby each unique value contained in these fields shall be assigned a correlative unique substituted value, and preexisting interdependencies shall be retained in the version of the data produced. Defendants shall promptly (no later than 7 business days after execution of this Stipulation) provide a proposed protocol for this substitution. Defendants agree to reasonably consult with Plaintiffs’ consultant if necessary to reach agreement on the protocol.

Without IP addresses and user names it will be significantly more difficult for Viacom to determine which individuals may have viewed any particular video. I for one have no further objections to this data being handed over from a privacy standpoint, although I still urge Viacom to stop the endless litigation and consider more innovative business models around their content.
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