02 April, 2024

US authorities tell Google to hand over the names, addresses, telephone numbers, and user activity of YouTube viewers.

Federal authorities in the U.S. have reportedly been asking the parent company of YouTube, Google for the names, telephone numbers, addresses and the activity of users that have watched certain YouTube videos, U.S. news agency Forbes has reported.

In what some media commentators are saying is a terrifying move the FBI also want the IP addresses of those users that weren't even logged in when they watched the totally legal videos. part of this investigation revolves around a case of suspected money laundering by an account under the name of “elonmuskwhm”. As part of the investigation, agents sent the suspect links to tutorials on YouTube about mapping via drones and augmented reality software. Then they asked YouTube to send them data about the people who watched that video.  But those video tutorials were not private and had been watched over 30,000 times by the time the agents asked YouTube’s parent company Google for information about the viewers.

The FBI is also demanding the details of viewers of eight selected live streams that related to a bomb threat, including one that had over 130,000 viewers subscribers.  The papers filed at court appear to ask Google to keep details of the request private and it is unclear if the firm has complied with the demands. However, in previous cases of its kind,  with much smaller amounts of user data, Google has handed over all information, despite maintaining a public persona of "pushing back" on overreaching law enforcement demands. 

Maybe the best advice is to not sign in to watch YouTube and to use a VPN