Welcome to the 21st century. The internet is a free and hate free place, where companies don’t just use you for your data so they can sell it forwards. Nope. This is about the permanence of data, both your data and the trail you leave behind, and how companies decide to use and keep your data.
It seems that nowadays, in the companies’ eyes, data permanence is divided into two main categories: data that makes money and data that loses money.
Are you gonna pay for that cloud subscription? Don’t worry, your files are going to be there for as long as you keep paying. It looks like kidnapping, because it kinda is. Of course, you can migrate your data to a self-hosted cloud whenever you want, fairly easy, but that’s work, and no one wants to work. But I don’t want to talk about private data, that seems to be pretty safe for the time being, well as long as you’re paying.
The main issue appears when people put their trust into for-profit companies that offer free hosting services. Because while you’re the product and your data and metadata are the merchandise, the objectives of that company might change over night and you might find yourself in a pickle.
I mean, Myspace lost all the music uploaded before 2015 (so basically when it was THE social network, especially for music artists) and they blamed it on a botched server migration, most likely a lie. I remember tons of songs from favourite bands in their early days, or bands that were short lived in that time. It’s estimated that about 50 million songs were lost. Of them, about 500k were recovered, but that’s just a drop in the ocean.
On a different front, Youtube grew because of random people uploading music there (mostly without owning the copyright). Once the site got bought by Google and money started to pour in, record labels started to yap, this resulting in a ton of accounts being suspended and videos disappear forever. Remember that performance of your favourite band in front of about 800 people back in 2008 at that small festival in the forest? Yeah, that’s fucking gone. Thank you, Youtube!
Blogs and content publishing platforms are living based on the same cycle, they rise, they get to a peak, they discover they can make money, they turn into shit, they die. Remember Geocities, Lycos/tripod, Myspace, Yahoo 360, Yahoo Pulse, Google Wave, Google Plus, and so many others? Well, they’re gone. Don’t worry, Twitter is already half dead, and Facebook will follow it eventually. No empire lasts forever.
It’s not only incompetence or cost-cutting that might impact data pemanence on the internet. The ideology of that company might change over night as well, or they decide you’re not the kind of person they wish on their platform, just because you come from a particular country. So if you were relying on cloning that github repo that some Iranian or Russian made that lets you use your keyboard LED as a music visualiser, it’s probably gone. Or search the internet for “github suspended me for no reason”. Thankfully, Github can be replaced with an open source alternative, or even a self-hosted one: GitLab, Bitbucket, GitBucket (Self-Hosted), Gogs (Self-Hosted), Gitea (Self-Hosted) to name just a few.
Image hosting services are everywhere, most are free, and most will shit on your data the first chance they have, Imgur is the latest to do this, but let’s not forget about all the other image sharing sites that went nuclear on their content.
We’re in the age where the Internet isn’t anymore a tool of the people, for the people, it’s a tool for the companies to collect data and keep your data hostage. I mean, even 1Password is removing their local password vaults and forcing you to get their subscription plan.
On the other hand, keep in mind that most cloud services you’re using are based in the US and they won’t even flinch when the government wants your data. Or a third party with enough money. Think deletion is good enough? Think again, anything you upload can and will be used against you at a convenient time (for them). Even your fucking DNA.
In essence, it’s 2023. Educate yourself. Stop using shitty hosting services. Host your own shit. Keep your data yours.