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How Google Can Make Nice with Privacy Advocates (Sort Of)

 by Bennett Gordon

Tags: Google, privacy, YouTube, Viacom,

Privacy experts panicked last week when a federal judge ordered Google to turn over sensitive information about its users to Viacom. The New York Times reports that some believe, “the video viewing habits of tens of millions of people could be exposed.” Viacom asked for the information to assist in a $1 billion copyright infringement lawsuit against Google’s video sharing site YouTube, but the case is sure to have larger implications than a few illegally posted videos. 

Some privacy advocates have called attention to the inevitable flaws in Google’s system of collecting private data. Writing for Computer World, Jaikumar Vijayan asked, “what is Google doing collecting and retaining all that data in the first place?” According to Vijayan, the company is clearly trying to improve targeted marketing campaigns, but users should be skeptical of any company that keeps such a huge cache of personal information. 

There is one way that Google could get back into the good graces of some privacy advocates. If they’re being forced to turn over all the personal information to Viacom, TechCrunch suggests that Google should simply produce it in dead-tree paper form. The information they’re ordered to turn over is estimated at about 12 terabites—enough to fill up the Library of Congress. Printing it all out wouldn’t be eco-friendly, but it would definitely slow down Viacom’s efforts to parse the info.

UPDATE: What does 12 terabites of data look like? Neatorama breaks it down: 2,615 DVDs or 5 billion single-spaced typewritten pages.