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Is it possible to track someone by sharing a youtube link with them with a timestamp such as &t=1s if they click on it on their end?

I've recently have been told not to use timestamps because of this...

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  • Whose tracking them? In theory yes, if you can monitor the url from some observation point on the network (leaving aside monitoring of https traffic for a minute) . But if you mean if you sent me a link now with a time stamp on could you track me, then no. You can’t see my traffic or the endpoint at you tube.
    – ISMSDEV
    Commented Sep 6, 2019 at 15:36
  • Define "track"? And who is doing the tracking?
    – schroeder
    Commented Sep 6, 2019 at 15:37
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    YOU (and others not affiliated with YouTube) can not track links based on timestamps. YouTube can track people however they want to, regardless of timestamps in links. There is no danger in using timestamps that doesn't exist without the timestamps.
    – Ghedipunk
    Commented Sep 6, 2019 at 20:21
  • "I've recently have been told" -- by whom?
    – schroeder
    Commented Sep 6, 2019 at 21:36

4 Answers 4

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Practical answer

Unless they are in YouTube's servers, there is no way for someone to track what you do if you click a link with a timestamp. If they are sniffing your HTTPS traffic, all they will see is a series of requests to YouTube.com, with none of the GET parameters included.

Tinfoil hat answer

If someone were to send you a link to a specific timestamp, it might be possible to determine that you clicked the link by seeing how many bytes of data you request from YouTube. i.e. if they send you a link with a timestamp 3 seconds from the end of a video, they could see that your requests to YouTube downloaded approximately 3 seconds worth of video (ignoring page load). This would require someone to be sniffing your network traffic, and would only allow "tracking" of whether you clicked that specific link. I can't imagine that this approach would be feasible or useful in any way.

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Yes, you give someone a unique timestamp, and then that URL can be tracked with the timestamp like an ID value.

But you would have to be able to track URLs, too.

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  • All answers here are out of date considering the new si= query parameter that arrived in 2023, which is how tracking is actually done with shared YouTube URLs.
    – JdeBP
    Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 18:55
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    Awesome. Add an answer with an explanation. My answer is based on a non-standard way to track clicks of URLs by making timestamps unique.
    – schroeder
    Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 19:19
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Youtube could see who originally generated the link most likely, or at least a list of people who generated that unique timestamp from the share button. The ?t= parameter on shared youtube videos is the seconds into the video, which does not disclose any information.

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As of november 2023 it looks like Youtube generates a tracking id in the query params when you open the share modal. ?si=trackingId

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    It's not about Google tracking you or something like that, but rather the person who shared the link. Commented Nov 26, 2023 at 20:39
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    Hey Julien, thanks for your answer. Please elaborate a bit more how this tracking is supposed to work for someone not Google/Youtube. Commented Nov 26, 2023 at 20:40

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