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Google under fire for giving YouTube data to US government

YouTube may have given the names and personal information of its users to the US police

 

The US government has asked Google to disclose the information of users who have watched some YouTube videos.

 

According to a Forbes report citing a court order, Google must provide federal investigators with the information of everyone who has watched some YouTube videos.

 

Privacy experts believe that this court order violates the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution, stifles freedom of expression, and turns innocent YouTube users into criminal suspects.

 

According to a recent case in Kentucky, undercover agents are looking to identify a person with the online name elonmuskwhm who is suspected of selling Bitcoin for cash and violating money transfer laws.

 

After talking to the user in early January, the undercover agents sent Google links to several YouTube videos about drone mapping and augmented reality software and asked for the identifying information of the people who had watched the videos. The videos had been watched a total of over 30,000 times.

 

According to the court order, Google must provide the government with the names, addresses, phone numbers, and activity of users who have Google accounts and who accessed the YouTube videos between January 1 and 8, 2023. In addition to this information, the government also wants the IP addresses of users who do not have Google accounts but watched the YouTube videos.

 

Police believe that the identifying information of the users could be useful in the course of the criminal investigation. It is not yet clear whether Google has provided the data to the government.

 

In another case, an anonymous man threatened the police force and said that an explosive device had been placed in a public area trash can. After searching the area, the police force realized that they were being watched through a live YouTube stream.

 

The government asked Google to identify the users who watched the live video or were otherwise associated with the account and to provide their information for a specific time period. One of the accounts that streamed the live video had about 130,000 followers.

 

Matt Bryant, a Google spokesperson, said: “While we comply with all valid legal requirements, we will continue to protect the privacy of our users. We review all legal requests that are served on Google and will object to requests that are overly broad or burdensome.”

 

Albert Foxconn, CEO of the Surveillance Technology project, said: “I hope this is the last time that government agencies try to enforce search warrants on digital networks because it is illegal. No one should have to worry about the police showing up at their door because of what YouTube’s algorithm suggests they might be interested in.”

 

John Davison, senior counsel at the Center for Electronic Privacy Information, believes that what we watch online reveals very sensitive information about our political views, feelings, and religious beliefs. Therefore, we expect law enforcement to not have access to our information just because of some possibility.

 

 

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