This week, Google announced a new policy surrounding inactive Google accounts. The plan, according to a blog post is to purge accounts that have not been active for at least 2 years. The company has its reasons for the purge, but one concern remained: what would happen to YouTube videos for inactive accounts? Google has clarified and it did not go the way we expected.
The upcoming Google purge
Google's recent policy change targets inactive accounts. After two years of inactivity, Google will reserve the right to delete the account along with any data associated with it. This includes emails, documents, and photos. Google claims that there are several reasons why this is important. The first and most logical for the business is that storing stuff takes resources, and resources require money. By purging the accounts, the company saves money - plain and simple.
The other explanation, which is what they're pushing to the public, is that older accounts are less secure. In fact, abandoned or idle accounts are likely to be easily hacked because the passwords are older and likely exposed and are unlikely to have additional security. According to Google,
Our internal analysis shows abandoned accounts are at least 10x less likely than active accounts to have 2-step-verification set up. Meaning, these accounts are often vulnerable, and once an account is compromised, it can be used for anything from identity theft to a vector for unwanted or even malicious content, like spam.
The fate of YouTube content
One of the biggest questions that arose with this policy was the fate of older YouTube videos. There is a lot of really good content out there that was published by accounts that are no longer active, but the videos themselves are still popular. This could be from accounts that have been lost to accuess issues or even death. What would Google do with this account content?
Surprisingly, YouTube Creator Liaison Rene Ritchie confirmed via tweet that YouTube accounts would be safe. Other users piled onto the thread, pointing out that the new guidance mentions that YouTube videos were on the list of content to be purged. Ritchie then said it had been corrected, pointing out that the document now contained this language,
Additionally, we do not have plans to delete accounts with YouTube videos at this time.
While this confirmation does alleviate immediate fears for the loss of YouTube content, it isn't forever. The phrase "at this time" is always a point of concern for changes in the future. Of course, this could simply be Google using language that gives them the ability to change their minds in the future if it is required, or it could be an indication that perhaps they really were planning to dump YouTube videos until the community backlash.
If it is the latter, it is possible that Google could quietly change this policy in the future, using the "at this time" language to cover their actions. No matter what the future holds, at least we know that those bizarre older videos from dormant accounts are safe. For now.