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Google will anonymize YouTube data before sharing with Viacom

Time to outsource some scrubbing

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Sanity has prevailed in the Google-Viacom case. At least for the moment.

Two weeks ago, wackadoo federal judge Louis L. Stanton ordered Google to share over 12TB of YouTube viewing records with Viacom, including account names and IP addresses. But yesterday, the two companies agreed that all personally identifiable info should be scrubbed from the records before they change hands.

In the past, Google has publicly questioned whether IP addresses are personal. And Judge Stanton used these comments against Google as part of his maniacal data offensive. But the Googlers now want you to know that they fully realize how important it is to keep your IP addresses private. It's a convenient change of heart.

"We are pleased to report that Viacom, MTV and other litigants have backed off their original demand for all users' viewing histories and we will not be providing that information," reads a post from YouTube, the video-sharing extravaganza purchased by Google in the fall of 2006.

We asked Viacom to comment as well, but we haven't heard back. Along with several other media-happy operations, the TV and movie giant is suing YouTube for $1bn, claiming the video-sharing site encourages people to violate its copyrights. The company demanded access to YouTube's 12TB "logging database" in an effort to show just how many web surfers are pirating its stuff.

According to court documents (PDF), the two companies have seven days to agree on a means of scrubbing personal info from the database. Basically, Google must substitute unique but anonymous values for all account names and IP addresses.

Hopefully, they'll be forced to do this by hand. Or write "IP addresses are personal" on a chalkboard at least 50 times. ®

Update

Viacom has responded. And naturally, it sees itself as the good guy. "We are pleased that Google will comply with the Court’s directive to provide YouTube usage data, information that will highlight the way YouTube has used copyrighted material to build its business," a company spokesman told us.

"Agreeing to our suggestion to anonymize the end-user data is the best way for Google to address privacy concerns. We trust that Google will comply fully with the Court's order and promptly produce the remaining information about their own activities."

It should be noted, however, that it was Viacom that asked for all 12TB of data - including personal info - in the first place.

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