Monday, July 6, 2009

Google/YouTube Being Evil

If I want to watch certain videos that have been 'flagged' on YouTube I am required to sign in to YouTube with an account under the pretense of determining my age.

The offer to link your Google account with your YouTube account is provided in this process - but what if I want to remain anything like anonymous?

If I attempt to create an account with the terms 'Google' or 'YouTube' in the account name, then the name is listed as 'Username Unavailable'. It really doesn't matter what else is in the name. Please go try it yourself to confirm this.

That made it impossible to create a name like "YouTubeLogsWutIWatch" or any derivative that includes their name.

Furthermore, they require my country as a "Location" as well as my postal code, my date of birth, and my gender. The combination of which, if honestly answered - a legally binding requirement - makes me anything but anonymous.

Lastly - the Terms of Use is displayed in a scrolling text field that is 3 lines high, which expands to 10 lines if you click in it, but contains legal conditions that are 311 lines long.

Those conditions are as arbitrary as possible due to the inclusion of this gem in line 4:

"YouTube may, in its sole discretion, modify or revise these Terms of Service and policies at any time, and you agree to be bound by such modifications or revisions."

So even if you do find the terms acceptable today - they can and will change them whenever is suits them to do so and your only recourse is in line 3:

"If you do not agree to any of these terms, the YouTube privacy notice, or the Community Guidelines, please do not use the YouTube Website."

And to be fully up to date and aware of the changes, again back to line 4:

" should periodically review the most up-to-date version..."

Mind you - that is just the first 4 lines. Do you want to read the remaining 307 lines? Does anyone besides me ever read them?

So what exactly is so "Evil" about this? Simple - they are acting as an accessory to government agencies that might have an interest in profiling what you watch and doing so in order to protect their own interests vis a vie Liability. No effort is expended in attempting to protect their customers' rights to privacy but rather they pass the buck by stating that they are 'obeying the law'.

Given that laws and governments change and themselves act in "Evil" ways - for example the extreme censorship in communist China and subsequent political imprisonment, organ harvesting, etc.. - Google/YouTube thereby empowers government agencies with the ability to monitor who is watching things that governments might take issue with.

The answer is simple : If you don't maintain records then they cannot be subpoenaed. That would be the lesser of all Evils.

By simply instituting an automatic pop-up that would appear for "flagged" videos for anonymous users, in the way that most adult entertainment sites do for example is an extremely simple technical workaround. This would provide people an option that would maintain their anonymity whilst also directly limiting Google/YouTube's liability.

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