London Guardian 
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Google has struck a deal to protect the personal data of millions of YouTube users in the $1bn (£497m) copyright court case brought against the video-sharing website by Viacom.
Under the deal, Google will make user information and internet protocol addresses from its YouTube subsidiary anonymous before handing over the data to Viacom in the US legal case.
Earlier this month a judge in New York ordered Google to pass on the personal data of more than 100 million YouTube users – many of them in the UK – to Viacom.
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Viacom, the media company that owns TV channels including MTV and Comedy Central and the Paramount film studio, had demanded the information so it could conduct a detailed examination of the viewing habits of millions of YouTube users around the world.
The agreement that Google has struck also applies to other litigants pursuing YouTube user information over copyright claims in a class action that includes the FA Premier League, the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organisation and the Scottish Premier League.
“We are pleased to report that Viacom, MTV and other litigants have backed off their original demand for all users’ viewing histories and we will not be providing that information,” Google commented in a post on the official YouTube blog in the US overnight.
“In addition, Viacom and the plaintiffs had originally demanded access to users’ private videos, our search technology, and our video identification technology. Our lawyers strongly opposed each of those demands and the court sided with us.”
Keeping YouTube user data anonymous had been championed by privacy campaigners in theUK and US.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation argued that the initial court order had “threatened to expose deeply private information” and violated the Video Privacy Protection Act.
There were also fears that Viacom might use the personal information to go after individuals for uploading illegal content such as music videos.
Google has now agreed to provide Viacom, and a class action group led by the FA Premier League, with a version of a YouTube viewership database that removes user name and IP data that would identify individual users.
However, the agreement does not address the issue of the viewing and uploading habits of Google and YouTube employees on the video-sharing website.