Watching certain kind of YouTube videos can land you on FBI watchlist: Report

If you’ve ever jokingly wondered if your search or viewing history is going to “put you on some kind of list,” your concern may be more than warranted.

In now unsealed court documents reviewed by Forbes, Google was ordered to hand over the names, addresses, telephone numbers, and user activity of YouTube accounts and IP addresses that watched select YouTube videos, part of a larger criminal investigation by federal investigators.

The videos were sent by undercover police to a suspected cryptocurrency launderer under the username “elonmuskwhm.” In conversations with the bitcoin trader, investigators sent links to public YouTube tutorials on mapping via drones and augmented reality software, Forbes details. The videos were watched more than 30,000 times, presumably by thousands of users unrelated to the case.

YouTube’s parent company Google was ordered by federal investigators to quietly hand over all such viewer data from Jan. 1 to Jan. 8, 2023, but Forbes couldn’t confirm if Google had complied.

The mandated data retrieval is worrisome in itself, according to privacy experts. They are worried about the kind of precedent the court’s order creates, citing concerns over the protections of the First and Fourth Amendments.

“This is the latest chapter in a disturbing trend where we see government agencies increasingly transforming search warrants into digital dragnets,” executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project Albert Fox-Cahn told the publication.

“It’s unconstitutional, it’s terrifying, and it’s happening every day.”


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