Monday, July 7, 2008
What seems to get lost in the recent hullabaloo over the court order requiring Google to hand over details of YouTube viewing patterns to Viacom is the fact that Google has all this info in the first place. The EFF is bent out of shape because, as one of its staff attorneys puts it, the judge, should "have considered... a right to read or view materials anonymously." If Viacom doesn't know what we're watching, does that mean the process is anonymous even if Google/YouTube does? Alternatively, if YouTube does, hasn't such a right ALREADY been violated? One of the coverage highlights has been the spectacle of Google getting indignant about invasions of privacy: "In a statement, Google said it was 'disappointed the court granted Viacom's overreaching demand for viewing history. We are asking Viacom to respect users' privacy and allow us to anonymize the logs before producing them under the court's order.'" Once again, an interesting double standard: if Google has non-anonymized info about user names and IP addresses it still apparently counts as "private." The goal here seems to be to naturalize Google's possession of this info. Or, more cogently, the privacy at stake here is not that of individual users, but of Google's claim to proprietary control over the information. Google isn't asking for our privacy to be protected, it wants its private control over the data maintained.