The Viacom v. YouTube discovery order saga continues, but this time in a way that may mildly alleviate concerns of privacy advocates. Recently, Viacom, feeling the heat from public outrage over its discovery victory, began a PR campaign to convince members of the public that it wasn't seeking to identify YouTube viewers. But that assertion simply didn't square with the terms of the Order sought by Viacom.
Perhaps motivated by public scrutiny, Viacom and Google announced that they have reached an agreement to "anonymize" the viewer identity data in the Goolgle database. (Eric Auchard, Lawyers in YouTube lawsuit reach user privacy deal (July 15, 2008) uk.reuters.com.) This is a good lesson in how to salvage a position when a discovery victory turns into a massive PR failure. Had Viacom pressed the issue of obtaining the unredacted viewership database, it risked alienating a large block of consumers. If Viacom is really sincere that it isn't interested in viewer identities, then "anonymized" viewing data is fully sufficient for Viacom to make its case against Google and YouTube.