July 15, 2008 | By Kurt Opsahl

Viacom Letter to EFF re Google/YouTube Data Privacy

Today Michael Fricklas, Viacom's General Counsel, sent EFF a letter in response to the concerns we raised regarding the user viewing data controversy over the past week. The letter, arriving on the heels of the stipulation entered between Google and Viacom last night, helps assuage a remaining concern: what if the parties changed the stipulation at a later time?

To address this concern, Viacom's letter promises:

that we will notify you [EFF], in advance, if, for some unforeseen reason we believe that these protections need to be modified in a way that reduces the level of public privacy protections so that you have an opportunity to discuss any concerns you may have or lodge any appropriate objections with the court.

As we noted in an earlier post, a stipulation is not as protective as a motion to correct the court's order because it may be modified by another stipulation between the parties. Viacom's promise, however, gives us the opportunity to take action before personally identifiable information is revealed.

In addition, Viacom provided a copy of the protective order that Viacom "anticipates" will cover the anonymized data Google will turn over, under the category of "Highly Confidential" information. It is critical that the data is ultimately protected by this order, because the Protective Order provides that Highly Confidential data is not to be "disclosed in any way to any person ... for use in any other litigation or contemplated litigation or for any purposes extraneous to this litigation." In addition, after the conclusion of the litigation, it "shall be returned to [Google] or shall be destroyed."

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