July 15, 2008

YouTube Privacy Deal? [9:35 am]

How good a deal remains to be seen. There’s anonymized data and then there’s really anonymized data: Lawyers in YouTube lawsuit reach user privacy deal (pdf)

Defendants and plaintiffs in two related copyright infringement lawsuits against YouTube have reached a deal to protect the privacy of millions of YouTube watchers during evidence discovery, a spokesman for Google Inc said on Monday.

Earlier in July, a New York federal judge ordered Google to turn over YouTube user data to Viacom Inc and other plaintiffs to help them to prepare a confidential study of what they argue are vast piracy violations on the video-sharing site.

Google said it had now agreed to provide plaintiffs’ attorneys for Viacom and a class action group led by the Football Association of England a version of a massive viewership database that blanks out YouTube username and Internet address data that could be used to identify individual video watchers.

“We have reached agreement with Viacom and the class action group,” Google spokesman Ricardo Reyes said. “They have agreed to let us anonymize YouTube user data,” he said.

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iPod Touch and iPhone 2.0 Software [7:16 am]

I had been hesitant about investing in another upgrade for my Touch software, particularly after the January upgrade was mysteriously expunged from iTunes a while ago, making it impossible to “Restore” my Touch following a sync problem, but I had become far too reliant upon the email tool to really pass up a $10 (re)purchase.

But I have been stunned by the new Map tool. Not that it generates maps, of course. Rather, it’s the spooky way that my Touch can locate itself on those maps. The techniques for geolocation using cellphone towers are pretty much a CSI staple these days, but as far as I know, the Touch doesn’t use those towers (I’m not an AT&T cell user, for example). So, all it has to go on is the IP address of the wifi station it connects to, right?

The fact that it locates me at MIT is a little spooky, but not too much so. MIT has class A address block, so once you know that the first number in the address is 18, you know that you’re at MIT. Moreover, the second number of the IP address roughly corresponds to a building, so the fact that it located me in E40 and in the Au Bon Pain around the corner is not too amazing a feat.

But, last night I tried it at my home, where I have Verizon DSL — with a DHCP-assigned address that changes over time (I haven’t sprung for the business account, which fixes the address). Despite that, the Touch Map application located me on the map with a precision equal to what Google Earth will do given a street address — meaning that, in some way, the Map application gets Verizon to query its DHCP logs and then associate my IP address with my billing address! (Unless it’s delegated that association to Apple/Yahoo!)

Spooky — and a little scary. More testing required, of course, but I clearly need to learn more….

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Trademark and the Internet [7:05 am]

Court Clears eBay in Suit Over Sale of Counterfeit Goods

In a long-awaited decision in a four-year-old trademark lawsuit against eBay brought by the jeweler Tiffany & Company, Judge Richard J. Sullivan of the Federal District Court in Manhattan ruled that the online retailer does not have a legal responsibility to prevent its users from selling counterfeit items on its online marketplace.

The verdict reaffirms that Internet companies do not have to actively filter their sites for trademarked material. Rather, they can rely on intellectual property holders to monitor their sites, as long as they promptly remove material when rights holders complain.

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