A US Court has ordered YouTube to hand over logs of the viewing habits of every user who has ever watched any video using the service. By favouring copyright over privacy, it has dealt a blow both to YouTube and the broader freedom of Internet usage.
I’m not really part of the YouTube generation – little things like work, family, house etc absorb my time – but once in a while I head over there to watch a favourite video or hunt down something to kill a bit of time. My browsing isn’t typical of my professional interests or responsibilities, so my viewing history is likely to include a lot of Land Rovers, bushcraft, target sports, Pot Noodle videos and the suchlike (it doesn’t conjure up a very appealing mental image, does it?).
I’ve always assumed that these data-driven content-rich sites and search engines keep a track of search and browsing habits, even if they don’t collect my name. But that doesn’t change the fact that today’s ruling completely alters the privacy equation.
As part of an ongoing copyright dispute between media giant Viacom and Google, the court has ordered that YouTube’s usage logs be handed over to Viacom. Will they use it to come after those who post copyrighted information? Just maybe. Will they use it to chase those who view it? Unlikely. Will they have the slighted interest in my viewing habits? Not at all.
What’s scary here is the precedent: corporate copyright is now allowed to take priority over privacy. The court has, in effect, granted a hunting license to any powerful organisation that wishes to trawl through silos of personal data in search of copyright abuse. Not so long ago, we used to worry about giving up liberty for security; now it’s being given away for copyright protection.
So, that’s it for YouTube. Thanks for the amusement, YouTube, it was fun while it lasted.