Courts Demand Info About People Who Viewed Specific YouTube Videos

From PC Magazine:

Federal authorities have reportedly ordered Google to provide information about viewers of select YouTube videos, including their names, addresses, and phone numbers, as well as provide information about video viewers who weren’t signed into YouTube while watching.

The requests are raising alarms for privacy experts who say the requests are unconstitutional and are “transforming search warrants into digital dragnets” by potentially targeting individuals who are not associated with a crime based simply on what they may have watched online.

Specifically, authorities have reportedly asked for information about individuals who watched certain videos on the site between Jan. 1-8, 2023 as part of an investigation into “elonmuskwhm.” The authorities also requested the user activity for those accounts.

According to Forbes, the investigation into elonmuskwhm is focused on that individual selling Bitcoin for cash, which is a violation of money laundering laws. The sale also constitutes an unlicensed money-transferring business. As part of the investigation, undercover agents reportedly sent links of YouTube tutorials that covered mapping via drones and augmented reality software to elonmuskwhm, and then asked Google to provide details on who had viewed the videos. The videos received more than 30,000 views.

According to documents viewed by Forbes, a court granted the government’s request for the information; however, it asked Google to not publicize the request.

In the court order, the authorities commented: “There is reason to believe that these records would be relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation, including by providing identification information about the perpetrators.”

Forbes reports that in another case, authorities requested user data after discovering that video of officers investigating a bomb threat in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was being broadcast on a YouTube livestream, an act which officers said had occurred with other bomb threats in other parts of the country as well.

In both cases, it’s unclear whether or not Google complied with the requests.

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