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If you watch the “wrong” things on YouTube, the Feds could demand that Google reveal your identity –


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If you watch the “wrong” things on YouTube, the Feds could demand that Google reveal your identity

Privacy experts are sounding the alarm about two recent court orders that allowed the federal government to order Google to release private information about users who watched certain unapproved videos and livestreams on YouTube.

According to the orders, the feds demanded information on all viewers of select YouTube videos that Washington says involve criminal activity like the selling of Bitcoin for cash.

Undercover agents spoke with an account called “elonmuskwhm” whom they suspect is breaking money laundering laws around the unlicensed transmitting of money, sending the account links to YouTube tutorials for mapping via drones and augmented reality software. After doing this, the feds petitioned Google for information about everyone who watched the videos, which collectively amassed 30,000 views.

The purpose of this baiting by the feds was to out “elonmuskwhm” via the linked videos by forcing Google to reveal everyone who watched said videos, allowing the feds to narrow down the pool to their target.

“The court orders show the government telling Google to provide the names, addresses, telephone numbers and user activity for all Google account users who accessed the YouTube videos between January 1 and January 8, 2023,” reports explain.

“The government also wanted the IP addresses of non-Google account owners who viewed the videos.”

(Related: Remember back in 2022 when YouTube unveiled a new certification program for videos containing any type of health information – everything on YouTube must align with WHO dictates or else it could get removed.)

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Are police watching you over YouTube?

Federal law enforcement’s argument was that it needed this information to finish conducting an “ongoing criminal investigation, including by providing identification information about the perpetrators.” Privacy experts, meanwhile, warn that this back-door effort is a privacy invasion of unconstitutional magnitude.

“No one should fear a knock at the door from police simply because of what the YouTube algorithm serves up,” said Albert Fox-Cahn, executive director at the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project.

The court granted the order anyway, allowing Google to keep it a secret that the feds had asked for this private information. Only after court records were unsealed did the public learn that federal law enforcement is doing this kind of thing, which could put anyone at risk of having their privacy invaded.

In another unrelated case, police investigating an unknown male who supposedly placed an explosive in a trashcan in Portsmouth, N.H. Police utilized a YouTube livestream to watch the trashcan, which apparently happens all the time across America.

Concerning similar such bomb threats, police have reportedly asked Google to provide a list of accounts that “viewed and / or interacted with” eight YouTube livestreams, as well as all associated identifying information during specific timeframes of the livestreams.

One such livestream is called Boston and Maine Live, a YouTube channel with 130,000 subscribers run by IP Time Lapse. Owner Mike McCormack said he is aware of the police order and that it pertains “to swatting incidents directed at the camera views at that time.”

“With all law enforcement demands, we have a rigorous process designed to protect the privacy and constitutional rights of our users while supporting the important work of law enforcement,” said Google spokesperson Matt Bryant about law enforcement prying into who is watching what on YouTube.

“We examine each demand for legal validity, consistent with developing case law, and we routinely push back against overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands for user data, including objecting to some demands entirely.”

Privacy experts say these law enforcement requests violate the 1st and 4th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which cover free speech and freedom from unreasonable searches.

“It’s unconstitutional, it’s terrifying, and it’s happening every day,” warned Fox-Cahn. “I’m horrified that the courts are allowing this.”

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Written by: radioroxi

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