Feds demanded ID of YouTube users who watched certain videos

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We’ve all made that joke, “Searching for this in Google is gonna get me on an FBI watch list.” But according to a recent report, that might actually be true if you watched some very specific YouTube videos last year. A United States federal court ordered Google to turn over the identities of tens of thousands of users who watched certain videos in a specific timeframe.

Federal investigators obtained court-approved subpoenas for any YouTube viewers who watched tutorials on mapping via drones and augmented reality software, according to a report from Forbes. The investigators had been communicating with a suspected money launderer undercover, sent them links to the relevant videos, then demanded Google identify anyone who had watched said videos immediately following.

The subpoena included names, addresses, telephone numbers, and browsing history for Google accounts for as many as 30,000 people, tracing traffic to the relevant videos for one week in January 2023. It’s not clear whether Google complied with the demands for user information, though corporations are typically hesitant to fight subpoenas issued by courts.

According to experts from the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project and the Electronic Privacy Information Center interviewed by Forbes, the subpoenas may have violated the US Constitution’s First and Fourth Amendments. These foundational laws protect freedom of speech and restrict unreasonable search and seizure, respectively.

Such potential breaches typically aren’t acted upon unless a victim fights them in court, often resulting in lengthy legal battles that can reach the United States Supreme Court before being resolved.

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PCWorld  We’ve all made that joke, “Searching for this in Google is gonna get me on an FBI watch list.” But according to a recent report, that might actually be true if you watched some very specific YouTube videos last year. A United States federal court ordered Google to turn over the identities of tens of thousands of users who watched certain videos in a specific timeframe.

Federal investigators obtained court-approved subpoenas for any YouTube viewers who watched tutorials on mapping via drones and augmented reality software, according to a report from Forbes. The investigators had been communicating with a suspected money launderer undercover, sent them links to the relevant videos, then demanded Google identify anyone who had watched said videos immediately following.

The subpoena included names, addresses, telephone numbers, and browsing history for Google accounts for as many as 30,000 people, tracing traffic to the relevant videos for one week in January 2023. It’s not clear whether Google complied with the demands for user information, though corporations are typically hesitant to fight subpoenas issued by courts.

According to experts from the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project and the Electronic Privacy Information Center interviewed by Forbes, the subpoenas may have violated the US Constitution’s First and Fourth Amendments. These foundational laws protect freedom of speech and restrict unreasonable search and seizure, respectively.

Such potential breaches typically aren’t acted upon unless a victim fights them in court, often resulting in lengthy legal battles that can reach the United States Supreme Court before being resolved.

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