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Google’s security changes will break old Drive and YouTube links

Google’s security changes will break old Drive and YouTube links


Old ‘unlisted’ videos are about to turn private, unless you opt-out.

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Soon, public links to an untold number of items stored on Google Drive and YouTube will stop working. In the name of enhanced security, Google is changing the way it handles link sharing on both services, and while active users may be able to opt out of the switch, files and videos abandoned on unused or inactive accounts may simply slip out of view forever.

That’s because shared links are now part of a newer system that Google says increases security. On YouTube, the newer links are apparently more difficult for anyone to guess or access without being explicitly given access. The newer links also have the affect of tying more activity to specific accounts and requiring viewers to log in, which allows access to be tracked and made a part of each user’s profile.

On YouTube the changes will affect any videos that are public, but marked as “Unlisted.” As described in a blog post and five-minute video, any Unlisted videos that were uploaded prior to 2017 will have their status changed to Private starting on July 23rd. The way Private videos work now, that will kill any old links or embeds, plus it limits sharing to a maximum of 50 people — all of whom will need a Google account to view it.

For people who would prefer to keep sharing their old Unlisted videos with public links, embeds and comments, they can opt out on a per-account basis by filling out this form over the next month. The only other option is to reupload those videos and leave them marked as Unlisted.

Google Drive is going through the same change, as announced earlier today on the Workspace Updates blog. Clicking a link to access cloud-stored files will now include a resource key that determines who does or does not get access. If you’ve already accessed a file (presumably while logged in to your Google account) then you will continue to have access to it, and if you have “direct access,” then that will continue to work.

Google Drive security update email
Google Drive security update email

If that is not the case, then you’ll need to make a request to access the file or folder. If you have a personal Google/Gmail account and use Drive, then you’ll get an email after July 26th alerting you to any files that will be impacted by this change. If your account includes links that will be affected, then you’ll be able to opt out of the “security update” as long as you do so before September 13th, 2021.

If you use a Google Workspace account managed by your employer, school or other organization then it’s a little more complicated. The administrator/IT department can choose to opt out entirely, apply the update to everyone with no opt-out possible, or apply the update and allow individual users to remove it from specific files.