There Is No Such Thing As Anonymized Data, Google

from the barely-appeasing dept

With the news out that Google and Viacom have come to an agreement to "anonymize" the data a judge ordered Google to hand over, it's worth remembering a simple, but important statement: there's no such thing as a truly anonymized dataset. While it may protect some users, it's still likely to reveal some users and what they surfed. Given all of this, it's still quite unclear why Viacom needs this data in the first place. The legal question is whether Google infringed on copyright. Why should Google's log files be necessary to determine that?
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Filed Under: anonymized data, logfiles
Companies: google, viacom, youtube

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  1. icon
    Mike (profile), 16 Jul 2008 @ 1:04am

    Re: It's called a subpoena

    If it's unclear to TechDirt why Viacom needs this data, I suggest your unfailing love of Google has clouded your judgement. It's called a subpoena, read about them.

    Um, we know quite a bit about how subpoenas work. The point was that it seemed like an unreasonable subpoena. Since you claim to know so much about subpoenas that the rest of us do not, I would imagine you would know that you don't just get to subpoena anything you want and automatically get it. You have to show a good reason for it. My point was that it's unclear what that "good reason" is.

    When Microsoft had to turn over their email, logs, etc. to the Justice Department, haters everywhere were delighted.

    Well, that was quite a different situation -- and, actually, contrary to your assertion, I wasn't delighted.

    But, more to the point, that was information that was directly relevant to the case. It is still unclear why user log data was relevant to the case.

    But heaven forbid someone accuse our beloved Google!

    Um. I'm hardly a Google-lover. I've come down pretty hard on the company when it does stupid things. But why let a little thing like reality come between you and a good rant?

    Truth is, there's a pretty good chance Google's making money on other people's copyrighted content.

    No. Google is making money providing a service. The fact that some *users* make use of that service to infringe on copyright is an issue between Viacom and those users.

    Ahem... you may not LIKE the copyright laws, but be prepared to face the consequences when you violate them on a massive scale.

    Sure. We agree. But that would require Google to have violated the law.

    If the court finds in favor of Viacom (and this data will be key to proving just how deep the infringement was and how complicit Google employees were), then cha-ching Viacom.

    If the point of the data were merely to show how complicit Google employees are, then the subpoena should have *only* covered the user accounts of Google employees.

    Why does it need everyone else's data?

    Furthermore, the complicitness of Google employees alone may not be enough. If it's the Google janitor who is uploading The Colbert Report, it's unlikely that that is evidence that Google itself was complicity.

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