Ann Cavoukian, Privacy Commissioner for Ontario, Canada, has sent a letter (pdf) to Google executives urging the company to appeal the July 3 court order forcing the search engine to turn over to Viacom every record of every video watched by YouTube users worldwide, including users’ names and IP addresses. The Commissioner wrote:
I appreciate that you have offered a compromise to Viacom, in an effort to minimize the amount of personal information that will be disclosed under the order. However, as you know, discrete pieces of information such as a last name or date of birth used in a login ID may serve to identify an individual. Further, “anonymous” viewing habits may nonetheless yield clues about a user’s identity. Simply stripping certain data fields from a database may not be sufficient to safeguard the privacy of individuals. […]
Google has successfully fought broad government subpoenas for users’ search records in the past. Mr. Brin was quoted as saying it was Google’s "obligation" to protect users’ privacy. Google now has the opportunity to champion users’ privacy in this case, and to garner widespread support from the privacy community and the public by taking decisive action.