Viacom, Google Agree To Conceal User Names

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The fears sprang up after Judge Louis Stanton of the U.S. District Court of Southern New York's ruling earlier in July compelled the Google-owned YouTube to hand over personal records as part of a copyright infringement lawsuit Viacom filed against the search engine giant in March of last year.

The move was immediately decried by privacy advocate groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which feel that the ruling violates the Video Protection Act, a law passed in 1998.

According To Reuters, Google and Viacom have reached an agreement to quell some of those privacy fears. Google will turn over a version of its YouTube database with user name and Internet address data blanked out to Viacom and the Football Associated Premiere League, which filed a separate class-action lawsuit.

"We have reached agreement with Viacom and the class-action group," Google spokesman Ricardo Reyes told Reuters. "They have agreed to let us 'anonymize' YouTube user data."

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While the newly worked out deal protects average YouTube users from having their identity exposed, the same can't be said for Google's employees.

When the court order to turn over YouTube user information was handed down on July 1, Google and YouTube employee video-watching and uploading habits were also compelled to be turned over. The agreement, Reyes told Reuters, also included the video habits of the plaintiffs as well. The two sides are actively working toward determining the best way to hand over this information, and a decision will be reached in the next few weeks.

The privacy flap between the two companies was thrust into the limelight earlier in July when Viacom demanded private user information from YouTube and Judge Stanton agreed. However, the legal battle between Google and Viacom started in March 2007 when Viacom filed suit against YouTube alleging that the most popular selections on the video-sharing site were pieces of their copyrighted content.

Google is currently in court over two separate lawsuits, one from Viacom and a class-action lawsuit filed by the Football Associated Premiere League. Both cases will be adjudicated separately but for the purposes of discovery are being treated as one.