Viacom, Inc. vs Google

July 16, 2008 at 5:25 pm Leave a comment

As an avid internet user and advocate for user privacy on the internet, I have taken great interest in the current court case: Viacom Inc. vs. Google. According to the lawsuit, Viacom is suing Google’s YouTube for their lack of action in curbing the rising usage of copyrighted material. In case you didn’t know already, Viacom owns Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks Studios, MTV Films, and a host of various channels, mostly those with crappy reality TV on them.

A judge has ordered that Google YouTube data be provided to Viacom, Inc. so that they may build their case. This is typical in court cases. A plaintiff has the right to any information that may help build their case. But, there are a lot of privacy laws that prevent a plaintiff from acquiring, through this process, the personal information of people whom are uninvolved directly in the case. Sadly, these privacy laws mostly pertain to tangible items: mail, credit card numbers, and things of that nature. The information circulated on the internet is so vast that the laws have not caught up with the times.

According to Google, the information that will be turned over to Viacom, Inc. is IP addresses, usernames, search queries, dates and times. An IP Address is a sort of identification number that differentiated your computer from other computers on the internet. When you connect to a server and request a web page, the server knows where to send that data because of your IP address. You likely have several different IP addresses and not even realize it. Your IP address is given to you by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Only your ISP knows who you are. You pay them once a month for internet so they know all about you. They know what IP address is yours, they know how long you use it and a cornucopia of other shit depending on what company you use. They all log different information from your connection.

When you connect to YouTube, Google stores your IP address in a log. Any time you type in a search phrase, they store that too and associate it with your IP address. This isn’t so bad. It helps Google improve its search engine. But, when a judge orders that information to be used in a court case, your information is now public record. I don’t want to alarm you and you shouldn’t be alarmed, yet. The only thing your IP Address and search criteria is going to tell anyone is the city that you live in or a city nearby and what you searched for. It will not tell them your name or address. Again, only your ISP knows that information.

While it doesn’t seem like a big deal that Viacom knows that some guy in Atlanta did a search on “Sexy Anime Chick.” It is. It’s a marketing team’s wet dream. Let’s say that a large portion of Atlanta is searching for “Anime.” Viacom now know that there is a demand in Atlanta for Anime. Not only does Viacom, Inc. know this but anyone who does an open records request for this case will get a copy of this information. Suddenly, Atlanta is going to have a lot more Anime channels.

Who cares? It’s what we wanted. Yes, it doesn’t seem like a big deal but this is the slippery slope. How long until your ISP is subpoenaed for your personal information so they know who has been downloading those anime shows for free. Viacom deserves compensation for your enjoyment of their intellectual property. Well, Google deserves compensation for the marketing research ripped from their hands by a judge who didn’t think things through.

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Entry filed under: Internet Privacy. Tags: , , .

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