Thoughts on Data that Google Manages

01 August 2008 Internet, IT & e-Discovery Blog Blog
Authors: Peter Vogel

The use and evolution of the Internet has changed social behavior in a number of ways. It is unlikely that anyone could have foreseen the explosive growth and development of Google since it launched in 1998 and is now worth more than $200 billion. So when Google purchased YouTube there was a rumble about Google figuring out a way to commercialize and monetize YouTube in ways not contemplated. At the same time the copyright laws have been in turmoil over the Internet and it’s not clear who the real winner has been. The demise of Napster and song sharing in 2000 led the Apple’s unbelievable success with the iPod. Another unforeseen evolution of the Internet.

Recently a federal judge ordered Google to hand over 12 terabytes of YouTube data including IP addresses, and many privacy groups are fretting over which they should be. When YouTube visitors watch videos on YouTube they do not expect to be identified, and even though Viacom is suing Google for a $1 billion in copyright infringement that does not justify personal information to be disclosed. So the federal judge order the YouTube data to be subject to a protective order so that the data may not be used except for limited purposes. Since we are all aware of inadvertant mistakes and leaks of private information, any violation by Viacom, whether intentional or inadvertant, would put millions of individuals at risk. Watching these event unfold may lead to some changes in federal laws to protect individuals.

Few individuals review Privacy Policies on any websites, but the Federal Trade Commission requires that US companies follow whatever Privacy Policies that they have on their website. However, there are users of YouTube from other countries as there are not international boundaries for use and access of YouTube. In the EU (and Canada) there are very different privacy laws. Particularly the 1995 EU Data Directive which allows individuals access to any computer which has data about them which they can correct. The YouTube Privacy Policy states that YouTube agrees to the US Department of Commerce Safe Harbor Policy which means that YouTube complies with the 1995 EU Data Directive. So EU visitors to YouTube may have an entirely different perspective on the federal judge’s action last week regarding privacy of their use of YouTube’s data now being provided to Viacom.


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