NEW YORK: A US judge has ordered Google to reveal all log-on names and IP addresses of the tens of millions of people who have watched video clips on its YouTube website.
The ruling by Judge Louis Stanton of a US District Court in New York was in response to the $1 billion copyright infringement lawsuit brought against the online titan last year by media giant Viacom.
The latter argues the information will provide evidence that unauthorized material makes up a significant proportion of what is watched on YouTube.
Viacom's lawyers have given cast-iron assurances that the data will not be used to prosecute individual viewers for uploading unauthorized clips.
They say it will be used solely to make the case that Google does not do enough to prevent the viewing of copyright protected content.
Both companies have declared they are working to comply with the court order while ensuring personally identifiable information is secure.
Privacy advocates, however, are alarmed.
Avers Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center: "It's a very important privacy moment. It will remind folks that companies like Google are sitting on top of a lot of personal information that they can't always control."
While online civil rights group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said: "The court's erroneous ruling is a set-back to privacy rights, and will allow Viacom to see what you are watching on YouTube.
"We urge Viacom to back off this overbroad request and Google to take all steps necessary to challenge this order and protect the rights of its users."
Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff