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Archive for July 3rd, 2008

YouTube users to be revealed.

The internet giant Google is being forced to hand over the personal information of every person who has ever watched a video on the YouTube website as part of a billion-dollar court case in the US.

A judge in New York has ordered that Google, which owns YouTube, must pass on the details of more than 100 million people – many of them in the UK – to Viacom, the US broadcasting company which owns channels including MTV and Nickelodeon.

The data will include unique internet addresses, email accounts and the history of every video watched on the website, giving Viacom’s experts the ability to conduct a detailed examination of the viewing habits of millions of people around the world.

The decision is the latest twist in a long court battle between the two companies over claims that Google encourages copyright infringement on the video sharing website. Judge Louis Stanton, who is presiding over the $1bn lawsuit, said the data handover was required in order to allow Viacom to build its case.

Google’s lawyers had argued that the cost of producing complete logs of YouTube’s viewers would be prohibitive. But that line of reasoning was rejected by the court, which said that concerns over privacy were speculative. “While the logging database is large, all of its content can be copied on to a few ‘over-the-shelf’ hard drives,” Stanton wrote in a 25-page adjudication.

While information on who has watched YouTube’s countless videos of sneezing pandas and laughing babies may seem trivial, civil liberties campaigners fear the ruling could set a precedent for the level of privacy afforded to people using the internet, and that internet companies could now be sued in order to get hold of sensitive personal data.

“The court’s erroneous ruling is a setback to privacy rights,” said Kurt Opsahl, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an online civil liberties group based in San Francisco. “We urge Viacom to back off this overbroad request and Google to take all steps necessary to challenge this order and protect the rights of its users.”

YouTube, which was founded in California in 2005, was bought by Google just a year later for $1.65bn and has since become the biggest video site on the web. It has an estimated 72 million users in the US alone, and its videos are watched more than 2.5 billion times each month.

The site is used by a number of broadcasters, including the BBC, as an outlet for their videos and clips – but a number of rivals claim that YouTube is a hotbed of piracy and encourages people to upload copyrighted television shows. Although Google has brought in a series of systems to help with the removal of illegal material from the site, Viacom argued that it does not go far enough and launched its court action in March last year.

The court’s decision also means that Viacom has succeeded in getting hold of exactly the same sort information that the American government has failed to access in the past.

In 2006, the US department of justice asked Google to reveal information on millions of web searches conducted on its website, as part of a wide-ranging investigation into illegal activity online. Google challenged the order and successfully fought it off in court, arguing that such a move would invade users’ privacy and expose commercially sensitive information.

In a statement yesterday, Google said it would lobby for the data it provides to be scrubbed clean of personal information.

“We are disappointed the court granted Viacom’s overreaching demand for viewing history. We will ask Viacom to respect users’ privacy and allow us to make the logs anonymous before producing them under the court’s order,” it said.

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FAIR has released their latest report on the costs of illegal aliens to taxpayers. The main costs are in education, health care and prison costs for illegal aliens in jail.
North County Time.
California’s nearly 3 million illegal immigrants cost taxpayers nearly $9 billion each year, according to a new report released last week by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Washington, D.C.-based group that promotes stricter immigration policies.
Educating the children of illegal immigrants is the largest cost, estimated at $7.7 billion each year, according to the report. Medical care for illegal immigrants and incarceration of those who have committed crimes are the next two largest expenses measured in the study, the author said.

Jack Martin, who wrote the report, said Thursday that the $9 billion figure does not include other expenses that are difficult to measure, such as special English instruction, school lunch programs, and welfare benefits for American workers displaced by illegal immigrant workers.
“It’s a bottom of the range number,” Martin said.
FAIR drew from the U.S. Census report and other sources. This study matches an earlier study By the Center for Immigration Reform (CIS) that I reported on (see: “Latest Report: Illegal Aliens Cost Taxpayers $10 Billion A Year” from Sep. 4, 2004). Of course you can’t do any straight reporting on this issue without having some pro illegal alien advocate group playing the race card once again to justify the illegal behavior of these people who suck dry our tax system and run emergency rooms into bankruptcy.
Gerardo Gonzalez, director of Cal State San Marcos’ National Latino Research Center, which compiles data on Latinos, criticized the report. He said it does not measure some of the contributions that immigrants make to the state’s economy.
“Beyond taxes, these workers’ production and spending contribute to California’s economy, especially the agricultural sector,” Gonzalez said.
Immigrants, both legal and illegal, are the backbone of the state’s nearly $28 billion-a-year agricultural industry, Gonzalez and other researchers say.
More than two-thirds of the estimated 340,000 agriculture workers in California are noncitizens, most of whom are believed to be illegal immigrants, according to a 1998 study on farmworkers prepared for the state Legislature.
Local farmers say migrant farmworkers are critical to their businesses, and without them they would have to close their farms or move their operations overseas.
These advocate groups really don’t have a leg to stand on. The only arguments they ever try to use is racism or that all these fact based reports are wrong and that the production of these illegal aliens is higher than if a legal worker earning a decent wage and didn’t require all the tax sucking benefits.
Martin disagrees. He said illegal immigrants displace American workers by taking low-skilled jobs, keep wages low by creating an overabundance of workers and stifle innovation by reducing the need for mechanized labor.
“The product of the illegal immigrant is not included (in the report) because if that is an essential product it will get done one way or another,” Martin said. Employers “would have to pay better wages or invest money on mechanization.”
Martin’s study looks specifically at the costs of educating illegal immigrants’ children, providing medical care to illegal immigrants and jailing those convicted of committing crimes. The report estimates the total cost at $10.5 billion each year, but that is offset by about $1.7 billion in taxes that illegal immigrants pay.
OK, sounds pretty backed up by facts. Sounds reasonable. So what could the advocates for illegal aliens possibly say about this report and its facts?
“I think FAIR is without doubt an extremist organization that tries to portray itself as a mainstream group,” said Christian Ramirez, director of the San Diego office of the American Friends Service Committee, an advocate group for legal and illegal immigrants.
Good rebuttal there by a representative for illegal aliens.
The article goes on to break down the numbers in the report further. Go read it for specific numbers. One that stands out though is the estimated $7.7 billion in education spending for illegal alien children. Having kid in Californian schools I can attest to the huge class sizes, low student-to-teacher interaction and the extraordinary amount of time wasted on those students who can’t speak English fluently enough. So while the dollar number is $7.7 billion, the overall costs to actual legal citizens of this country’s children who pay for these schools is immeasurable.
Martin said states bear most of the cost of illegal immigration.
“State costs are much higher on a per capita basis because of the fact that the largest expenses are medical care and education and those are borne at the local level, not the federal,” Martin said.
In this time of California’s budget crisis this should be priority one in reducing expenses in the state.

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