In a lawsuit by Viacom against YouTube, a judge has ordered that YouTube produce its log files of every video ever watched on YouTube. These logs will contain the user ID and IP address of every viewer. The privacy implications are obviously huge. This information is clearly personally identifying. The judge does not agree with me on this point. Here is the relevant part of the decision:
Defendants argue that the data should not be disclosed because of the users’ privacy concerns, saying that
“Plaintiffs would likely be able to determine the viewin and video uploading habits of YouTube’s users based on the user’s login ID and the user’s IP address” (Do Decl. ¶ 16).
But defendants cite no authority barring them from
disclosing such information in civil discovery proceedings,5 and their privacy concerns are speculative. Defendants do not refute that the “login ID is an anonymous pseudonym that users create for themselves when they sign up with YouTube” which without more “cannot identify specific individuals” (Pls.’ Reply 44), and Google has elsewhere stated:
We . . . are strong supporters of the idea that
data protection laws should apply to any data
that could identify you. The reality is though
that in most cases, an IP address without additional information cannot.
Google Software Engineer Alma Whitten, Are IP addresses personal?, GOOGLE PUBLIC POLICY BLOG (Feb. 22, 2008), http://googlepublicpolicy.blogspot.com/2008/02/are-ip-addresses-personal.html (Wilkens Decl. Ex. M).
Therefore, the motion to compel production of all data
from the Logging database concerning each time a YouTube video has been viewed on the YouTube website or through embedding on a third-party website is granted.