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Google, Viacom agree to shield YouTube users

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Bloomberg News / July 16, 2008

NEW YORK - Google Inc. will delete personal information about users of its YouTube video-sharing website before turning data over to Viacom Inc. and other companies in a copyright lawsuit alleging widespread piracy.

Google, owner of the most-used Internet search engine, earlier this month resisted a federal judge's order to turn over all users' viewing histories, citing privacy concerns. The agreement lets Google use anonymous numbers to replace data such as usernames and Internet addresses, which would have allowed Viacom to identify specific YouTube users.

"It's a great win for our desire to protect user privacy," Catherine Lacavera, Google's senior litigation lawyer, said yesterday in a phone interview.

Viacom, which sought the information as part of its 2007 lawsuit against Google, agreed to the partial deletion yesterday after US District Judge Louis Stanton in New York ordered them on July 2 to work out a plan to turn over the data. Viacom, owner of the MTV and Comedy Central networks, plans to use the information to determine if YouTube users illegally share content.

Google has resisted attempts to get at its user data. In 2006, the company fought a US subpoena for months as it sought to assure visitors that their search records weren't easily accessible. Google founder Sergey Brin said the company has an "obligation" to protect users' privacy.

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