Google Is Not Deleting Old YouTube Videos

Google has backtracked on its plan to delete inactive YouTube videos—at least for now. Of course, it could change its mind anytime it wants.

It would be nice if this would get people to think about the vulnerabilities inherent in letting a for-profit monopoly decide what of human creativity is worth saving.

Posted on May 22, 2023 at 7:15 AM18 Comments


anonymous May 22, 2023 9:57 AM

I wish Google would delete its surveillance operations…which would be most of itself.

Carl Fink May 22, 2023 10:15 AM

Hmm … you used to be an IBM executive and an entrepreneur, and yet you have doubts about laissez faire capitalism? Surely you know that, in this age of extremism and polarization, you may only choose one of the two binary-opposed positions? Either you are a devoted Marxist, or an exaggerated hyper-libertarian. Pick one.

Bruce Schneier May 22, 2023 11:15 AM

@Carl Fink

I assume this is meant to be parody, so I won’t engage in the substance. But, for the record, I was never an IBM executive. I sold a company to IBM. But, because the actual IBM executives were afraid of what I might do — yeah, I know, weird — they wouldn’t make me an IBM employee like everyone else at Resilient Systems. So I was a contractor for the two years I had an affiliation with them.

iAPX May 22, 2023 12:28 PM

Keeping video contents that don’t generate revenue any more is clearly not the mission of YouTube or Alphabet, and it go against the first mission of any company: generate value for the investors.

I like the US Library of Congress as they put a lot of effort, and taxpayer money, into building an incredible library and then expanding it to software.
I wonder if they could have a deal with YouTube and the other platforms to find a way to preserve streamed video content as well?

As a photographer, going from film camera to digital ones between ’95 and ’05, I appreciate the incredible capabilities of digital media, but it came with a blunder: how to store digital pictures (or digital videos) on the long run, to ensure it will stay for decades if not a century, as for late 19th century pictures of my ancestors?!?

In this novel era of digital society, it seems that our paste is erasing way faster than it was in the latest centuries!

Carl Fink May 22, 2023 1:52 PM

It was absolutely meant as parody. I did not know you were a contractor for those years. Sorry if I brought back bad memories.

anonymousperson May 22, 2023 3:45 PM

I store all my videos as illustrations “drawn” in the margins of books, or slip it into the plots of movies. Even though the information itself is somewhat lost in the process, it serves as a vehicle for psychological operations against family members. They have gradually grown more paranoid and delusional with each reading, or outing to the cinema.

Without a control, it’s likely just the effect of the modern media environment. One does live in hope that all that cash wasted on terrible movies went to some use. I did not earn it designing the modern surveillance state, as a contractor, for the CIA. That did not happen, and neither did anything else.

Lawrence Dol May 22, 2023 3:55 PM

Not everything produced by man is worth retaining and the cheaper and easier it is to produce the less likely it has lasting value — 90% of videos that have been uploaded to the internet could disappear instantly and society would be the richer for having shed the embarrassment. The real problem is identifying the 10% that has value.

Given how many good videos are buried in a tsunami of pointless crap it is highly unlikely that watch-rate alone will safely eliminate the videos of no lasting value. Similarly our proclivity to like substanceless fluff, and avoid investing time in information of lasting value means that “likes” will be equally ineffective in determining value.

With all that said, they should simply notify the video owner to download a copy — if the owner thinks that it is worth saving they can. Storing this massive amount of data is not free.

vas pup May 22, 2023 5:51 PM

EU fines Meta €1.2 billion over data transfers to US

!!!”European Union regulators on Monday fined Facebook owner Meta a record €1.2 billion ($1.3 billion) over the transfer of EU data to the United States. Meta was also ordered to stop transferring user data across the Atlantic by October.

The data transfers came despite a previous EU court ruling.
The breach prompted the largest fine “ever” under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), said the European Data Protection Board (EDPB), topping the €746 million fine against Amazon in 2021.

The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), which acts on behalf of the European Union, has been investigating Meta’s transfer of personal data from the EU to the US since 2020.

It found that Meta failed to “address the risks to the fundamental rights and freedoms of data subjects” that were identified in a previous ruling by the Court of Justice of
the European Union (CJEU).

The case is part of a long-running legal battle over where Facebook stores its data and its involvement in mass surveillance by Anglo-American intelligence agencies.

Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems first brought a legal challenge against Facebook a decade ago, in light of revelations by former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.”


no comment May 22, 2023 6:31 PM

Re: I may not know art but I know what I llke

“I think all movies are worth watching,” J.Panahi .

Clive Robinson May 22, 2023 7:00 PM

@ Lawrence Dol, ALL,

Re : But what to keep?

“Not everything produced by man is worth retaining and the cheaper and easier it is to produce the less likely it has lasting value”

Actually not totally true.

Whilst much is not likely to have much value to “the many” in future times it will have value to “the few”.

But even the apparently worthless today could have significant value a century down the line.

To industrial historians the likes of “works books” that are like diaries of what happened to enginess is an absolute treasure of information. As are the “works accounts” and similar.

They tell us about day to day activities that don’t get “recorded for history” because nobody considers them important at the time they are carried out.

But let me tell you a true story of a single photograph and how it went from being of apparent little worth to creating a scandle.

A radio station in London had a “works day out” to the beach and there were the usuall photos taken. One happened to be a group photo and included a young lady who was sunbathing topless. It ended up pined to the “office notice board” where it remained for quite some time.

The young lady moved on to other jobs and eventually met someone she decided to get engaged to. All fairly normal stuff. Except for the fact the person she got engaged to was a Royal Prince. So she became quite news worthy.

This is where “Tits-n-Bums” Rupert “the bear faced liar” Murdoch and his very unsavoury organs came into play.

A woman who realy should have known better took the photograph off of the notice board and sold it for the price of a night out to one of Murdochs Red Tops that blew up the photograph and put it in the newspaper…

Well the princess to be was obviously quite upset as you would expect. The woman who sold the photo ended up loosing her job and became a pariah in the broadcasting industry…

The point is the young lady was unknown to all but a few when the photo was taken and back then it was effectively harmless. However she dod become very newsworthy and the photo was nolonger effectively harmless it had become toxic.

What it demonstrates is that even in our life times we just do not know what is of no worth today but of value tomorrow.

Erdem Memisyazici May 22, 2023 7:29 PM

This may be a crazy idea but if we all expect some emerging technology to behave a certain way perhaps there is some merit to it.

We think Googling, or posting on YouTube etc. are God given rights. They are however private companies.

What if we decided to make a taxpayer’s alternatives to search engine and social media services? One subject to regulation rather than whims? Perhaps get a symmetric key even from your local DMV?

The idea that the Internet may be viewed as a utility is certainly not a new one. The fact that you don’t own your data on “the Internet” is just odd.

JonKnowsNothing May 22, 2023 11:27 PM

@ Clive, Lawrence Dol, ALL,

Re But what to keep? Not everything produced by man is worth retaining

It is always hard to predict what is worthwhile. Today’s trash is tomorrow’s archaeology dig.

A large number of arch sites are actually that period’s dump. Where they tossed all the broken bits and bobs. We don’t always find intact pieces but we see a spectrum of what was in vogue.

The current rage in re-discovering ancient texts is to look at the repurposed paper. Volumes of what were once were new books, became dusty unread tomes, or residues from redistributed collections, or damaged by time and pests, that had their pages removed from the bindings, the pages were cleaned (sometimes), and then used as packing for newer brighter shiny books.

There are research projects to develop methods to read even scrolled up, burnt in a fire texts and other works that cannot be unrolled or the imprint is beyond human eyesight.

Like reusing old Amz Packing Boxes; in 500 years, folks might be more interested in what was originally in the box, rather than your up-cycled cat litter box.

Perhaps a 500 years in the future, PhD project on what sort of “toys” where in the boxes ….

Hans May 23, 2023 3:36 AM

As others have said, Google (and by that Youtube) is a private organization. And by that not responsible for preserving cultural data. It is responsible to preserve economic data for about ten years, depending on local laws. And that’s about it.
There are other organizations responsible for that preservation. In Germany, the Nationalbiblothek has the mission to collect, catalog, and preserve all German publications. What a publication is has changed in the internet years. The change of the definition has caused some uproar because every website owner had to ”deliver” that to the Nationalbiblothek. Today they use an automated system.
There might be a similar organization in the USA? Is that responsible for video publications?
A private organization without a mission statement to do so is certainly not the right one to be in charge of collecting historical cultural goods.

Clive Robinson May 23, 2023 4:02 AM

@ JonKnowsNothing, Lawrence Dol, ALL,

Re : Where has all the paper gone?

“The current rage in re-discovering ancient texts is to look at the repurposed paper.”

It can be found in many places, some not where you would want to go digging (ie latrines have a lot of Newspaper or Catalog pages depending on where and when…).

Others, where people come across them by accident.

In the UK when old Victorian or earlier homes are “refurbished” rather than “made over” original items get removed and newspapers get found often in surprisingly good condition.

There is something of the “walk over my grave” twinge when lifting linoleum that has been hidden under carpet for many many years. To find not just the linoleum makers mark, but entire sheets of newspaper. Of which the stories are as lurid or more as any modern Red Top. Some newspapers had three editions a day and the cost was actually considerable when you worked it out as a fraction of daily wages for a workman.

But the fascinating thing for me is the adverts for things like pomade, men were every bit as vain back in the 1800’s as they are today. Many pomade’s were allegedly made with “Bear Grease”, that since the 1600’s had been reputed to have “hair restorative powers” and is mentioned as such in Culpeper’s herbalists book of the time…

The reality however was that there were not enough bears to make the amount of pomade sold… So what was used instead? Well the less usable rendered down fat from pigs and cows, in the less expensive brands, and in others the lanolin washed from sheeps wool (still used in modern cosmetics).

One brand of pomade lasted nearly a century and into the Great War, which was “Atkinsons of London” who’s advertising brand logo was a picture of a bear,

Other adverts are for house hold items like coal scuttles, tin baths / was tubs and similar, even bread boards, and of course, enough “Patent Remadies” to fill a mortuary many times over (which is why we got “fit to market” legislation amoungst other laws to prevent harm).

On the scary side, luxury baths that were kept warm, by having a gas burner underneath… Less scary but just as dangerous were cloths irons, that were a metal box in which you put “hot coals” from the fire, they could easily fill a room with noxious if not poisonous fumes…

Ross Anderson May 23, 2023 8:36 AM

Archival libraries, such as the British Library and Cambridge University Library, see their mission as preserving material not just for the next generation but for the next civilisation. Archivists take the view that if more than 20% of their material is ever read, then their accessions policy was too strict.

As one example, back in the 1960s, Cambridge acquired a microfilm product and proceeded to microfilm its archive of The Times newspaper, on which they had a full run back to the first edition. The paper copies were then sold. Nowadays historians curse them, as they didn’t bother to photo the front page – as it was just ads. Nowadays, it’s the ads that the historians want, not the news stories. Historians know who won the battle of Waterloo, but what they don’t know is maybe the price of boots in 1790, 1800, 1810, 1820 and 1830. For that, they need the ads.

And come to think of it, who’s archiving today’s ads? Google serves different ads to everyone, so where’s the historical record?

RapidGeek May 23, 2023 11:27 AM

There are archival methods such as M-Disc which use an etching process to store data long term. It is also assumed that you have backups on a continuously expanding “cloud infrastructure”. Just need to have the money to perpetually pay for the data you want

Guillaume T May 25, 2023 7:43 AM

“letting a for-profit monopoly decide what of human creativity is worth saving”: the said for-profit monopoly already receives some guidance from regulatory bodies – thinking GDPR and its “right to be forgotten” (that definitely favors creations disappearing after a little while) and “right to data portability” (that helps saving).
For the rest of human creativity… yep, to be thought about.

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