Tuesday, July 15, 2008

YouTube agrees to share viewer data, without IDs and IPs

Litigants trying to get data on what the video site's users were watching have backed off somewhat, although YouTube will still have to share some data with Viacom.

Plaintiffs Viacom and a class-action group led by the Football Association of England agreed to accept a watered-down version of YouTube's viewer logs. That version will not include the IP addresses nor the YouTube usernames of the viewers.

Earlier this month, a judge ordered Google to turn over this information to Viacom. The media conglomerate had specifically requested information that would have also tied the viewer data to a specific YouTube user.

Viacom has been at the forefront of the copyright fracas involving YouTube: It sued the site for $1 billion in 2007. The Football Association of England followed not soon after, claiming it had identified about 160,000 unauthorized clips of European football programs -- viewed more than 1.5 billion times.

Privacy advocates and users alike almost immediately slammed Viacom for what they saw as an overreach. The Electronic Frontier Foundation called it a "setback to privacy rights," while users threatened a boycott of Viacom programming.

However, as the criticism deepened, the media company seemed to back off its original request, saying in a statement that "the personally identifiable information that YouTube collects from its users will be stripped from the data before it is transferred to Viacom."

Yet Viacom still seemed to want to gain access to users' private videos, Google's search technology on YouTube, and specifics on how YouTube identifies videos that may infringe on copyrighted material.

In a post to its company blog, YouTube officials boasted that the judge in the case had sided with the video sharing site.

"We remain committed to protecting your privacy and we'll continue to fight for your right to share and broadcast your work on YouTube," it said.

Regardless of Monday's developments, a resolution in the matter could be a far ways off. Neither case is expected to come to trial until 2009 or 2010, say legal analysts.

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