Youtube's "privacy violation" policy is a steaming pile of horse-shit.

Some asshat submitted a "privacy" takedown of Jon Becker's video of our February edition of Blow Up. (Original video here.)

Youtube mailed me giving me the supposed opportunity to dispute this, and then completely disregarded my reply.

(The almost-unreadably incompetent formatting below is verbatim from the original. Google also fails at using email.)

From: "YouTube Support" <>
Date: May 11, 2011 12:05:17 PM PDT
Subject: Re: [#804172653] YouTube Support

Dear DNALounge, This is to notify you that we have received a privacy
complaint from an individual regarding your content:
------------------------------------------------------------- Video URLs:
The information reported as violating privacy is at 1:40-1:41
------------------------------------------------------------- We would
like to give you an opportunity to review the content in question and
remove any personal information that may be used to uniquely identify or
contact the complainant. You have 48 hours to take action on the
complaint. If you remove the alleged violation from the site within the 48
hours, the complaint filed will then be closed. If the potential privacy
violation remains on the site after 48 hours, the complaint will be
reviewed by the YouTube Team and may be removed pursuant to our Privacy
Guidelines ( For content to
be considered for removal, an individual must be uniquely identifiable by
image, voice, full name, Social Security number, bank account number or
contact information (e.g., home address, email address). Examples that
would not violate our privacy guidelines include gamer tags, avatar names,
and address information in which the individual is not named. We also take
public interest, newsworthiness, and consent into account when determining
if content should be removed for a privacy violation. If the alleged
violation is located within the video itself, you may have to remove the
video completely. If someone's full name or other personal information is
listed within the title, description, or tags of your video, you can edit
this by going to My Videos and clicking the Edit button on the reported
video. Making a video private is not an appropriate method of editing, as
the status can be changed from private to public at any time. Because they
can be turned off at any time, annotations are also not considered an
acceptable solution. We're committed to protecting our users and hope you
understand the importance of respecting others' privacy. When uploading
videos in the future, please remember not to post someone else's image or
personal information without their consent. For more information, please
review our Privacy Guidelines,

The YouTube Team

Do not, repeat, do not blow hatch:

From: Jamie Zawinski <>
Date: May 11, 2011 12:36:32 PM PDT
To: YouTube Support <>
Subject: Re: [#804172653] YouTube Support

There is no privacy violation in this video.

This was filmed at a nightclub, open to the public, with no expectation of privacy. It shows hundreds of people dancing in public. No single person is visible for more than two or three seconds.

In addition, anyone entering the club is clearly presented with this notice at the door:

By entering the premises, you hereby grant a license and permission to DNA Lounge or its designees, and its employees, successors, assignees, licensees and agents, to utilize your appearance, image, voice and likeness, in perpetuity, throughout the world in any and all manner and form and format of media, now known or hereafter devised, including but not limited to recordings, broadcasts or webcasts of the event that you are attending.

You release DNA Lounge and its designees, and each of their employees, successors, assignees, licensees and agents from and against any and all claims for invasion of rights of publicity, privacy, defamation, or other claims or causes of action arising out of the production, reproduction, distribution, broadcast, exhibition or other exploitation of the event you are attending.

Thank you,

Jamie Zawinski, owner, DNA Lounge

Roger, hatch blown:

From: "YouTube Support" <>
Date: May 13, 2011 2:02:31 PM PDT
To: "Jamie Zawinski" <>
Subject: Re: [#804172653] YouTube Support

Hi there,

Thanks for your email.

We have removed the material in question for a privacy violation, pursuant
to our Community Guidelines.

It may take some time for video search results and thumbnail images to
disappear from the site. Typically, this should not take more than a
couple of days. Please be patient and be assured that the video is no
longer viewable.

For more information regarding our Privacy Guidelines, please visit:


The YouTube Team

Fuck you very much, Google. Your policies are bullshit and your resolution protocol is worthless.

But at least they thanked me for my email!

The original video is viewable on Vimeo. Maybe it's time to switch to Vimeo for all of my online video usage, since apparently Youtube can't be trusted.

The takedown notice said the "violation" was from 1:40-1:41. The edits in this video are so fast that that two second period covers three edits! Google won't tell you who your accuser is, but assuming they didn't just make up those numbers, maybe the complainer is one of these people:

Update, May 25: Google relented and restored the video!

Tags: , , , ,

24 Responses:

  1. Sean Newton says:

    I vote for #3, that's probably not her boyfriend and/or husband.

    • G says:

      Yes, that was exactly what I was thinking.

      JWZ could print out her picture and give it to the bouncers to keep her out... but probably more work than it is worth.

      Still, I'd wager she's the one who complained to keep her real boyfriend/husband from seeing this.

    • That was my thought as well, but hell: maybe #1 told her parents she was studying at a friend's house, or maybe #2 is (justifiably) really embarrassed about those eyelashes.

  2. NelC says:

    Did they send you the right email? That reads like the one they should have sent to the accuser.

    What would happen if you removed the two seconds in question, and reposted it?

  3. Christof says:

    Post three videos with each of them on a loop and a bit of context. Just to check.

  4. John says:

    It looks like Google considers "their face being visible" to be a privacy violation regardless of what agreement they may or may not have with you. And that Youtube policy is, thus, "fuck getting involved, we have a complaint from someone whose face really is there, so remove the face or get lost".

    • Makes sense for them. You may have the right to publish it, but they don't bother. It's somewaht similar to the way they hand DMCA safe harbour complaints, too.

      For such short spans they could auto blur the whole scene and be done, too. I bet they plan something similar. That also would be in their DMCA safe harbour complaints spirit.

  5. non says:

    I believe what YouTube did is the right thing. You use their service, so you gotta play by theirs rule. You cannot apply your rule anywhere but your own land, can you?
    If some other clubs come and ask you to kick your customers out because they break theirs rule, which nothing to do with you and/or your club, will you kick them out?

    • jwz says:

      You seem to have made the cognitive leap from "Google can enforce whatever policy they like" to "their policy is sensible and reasonable."

      Their policy is bullshit, and if you think it's not, you're an idiot.

    • the hatter says:

      The complainant used jwz's service, why does she not have to play by his rules ? You can apply rules like he does just as he does across the world, as the majority of venues and events do, it's the only sane way for them to be able to demonstrate their business functioning in publicity material.

  6. But Vimeo cannot be trusted on the technical size, its reader is bulky, heavy on cpu, loads slowly, crashes frequently.

    • mediapathic says:

      I've actually had a more consistent user experience with vimeo than I have Youtube, as far as videos loading and/or playing correctly. I use them for hosting my various videos because their quality is usually better than Youtube's. Are you doing something weird?

      • I've had occasionally pretty bad loading experiences as a user, could as well be due to my being-in-europe thing and to them not having (enough) european mirrors.

        While on slow/outdated computers in practice I couldn't gain access to vimeo videos, all the while youtube ran smoothly. Part of that is due to the degrading perfomances of flash in the latter years.

        There is a chance the actual video format you upload in is relevant to playing performance in vimeo (while it practically isn't on youtube) that could explain why you (as a careful uploader) never encountered any problem.

  7. Youtube always relied too much on throwing problems over the crowdsource fence and not caring what happened. This has made it very susceptible to abuse. When I was still at G I tried a couple times to help resolve a ridiculous situation like this, and all I got back was, "we don't care" and "we want to spend zero resources on this."

    Buying youtube was a mistake .. maybe now not the worst mistake, but up in the top few.

  8. Edouard says:

    I happened to be having dinner with Google's privacy head a week or so ago. She looked pretty exhausted.

    Yeah, it sucks from a common sense point of view, but I can see why they do it. They get scrutiny on a level that not even Microsoft had to ever put up with, and the governmental threats they receive drive them to err on the side of notional privacy instead of reasonable privacy, lest some bureaucrat or politician more or less bans them from existing in any useful form.

    My money's on "chick with some guy". Hopefully someone will reddit or slashdot this (or whatever it is the kids use these days), and it will be reposted far and wide. Karma demands it.

  9. It's fascinating & indicative that you can't confront your accuser in any way, shape or form. The accusation alone is enough to get you sanctioned —shades of Stalin's USSR and the Salem Witch Trials! Of course, there are good corporate reasons, as noted above, why YouTube doesn't want to deal the legal overhead at all.

    • You forgot the Nazi comparison, just for the trifecta of hyperbolic responses.

      • Heh. The fact remains that you have no practical redress against the accusation. It's like when an ISP gets a DMCA take-down notice; they just cut you off at the knees despite the DMCA's own safe harbour provision because it's in their best interests to do so & less work for them. Which is why I've had to explain "safe harbour" to help desk morons following a script, and the ISP doesn't respond itself with "safe harbour" to any complaints. They simply can't be bothered.

  10. pod says:

    I do nightlife photo work for a living. Most venues I work with have the same policy DNA does. And if you think about it, it's pretty much on the money. Whether it's me with my SLR, guys and girls with their iPhone cameras, or even the clubs own security and/or broadcast systems, your image is acquired probably from the minute you get within range of the door.

    It might be Youtube's turf, but they're not following their own policy as stated. If their policy is "We'll pull whatever we want, when we want..." then it should say that up front.

    Oh, and agreed 100% on the commenter who said it was probably someone who was cheating on their significant other. One of the pet peeves of any decent nightlife shooter anywhere is this exact thing. People come up to us and ask for photos and then ask if we can "not publish/delete" because they're not supposed to be out with the other person. I won't publish out of common courtesy, but some people will out of spite, and well, in that case it's tough shit.

    You don't want random people taking photos of it? Don't do it in front of random people.

  11. Nick Lamb says:

    Jamie says "the supposed opportunity to dispute this" but the mail never offers any such opportunity. Youtube's behaviour is completely what they said. Jamie's mistake was in assuming that they'd forgotten to mention how to say "No". But they didn't forget, there isn't a way. If there's any video anywhere on Youtube that shows someone who looks like you, Youtube will take it down at your request. If someone doesn't want their Youtube videos removed, they need to remove all recognisable images of people.

    This achieves Google's goal of minimising the cost to run Youtube, and it doesn't really get in the way of anyone's freedom of expression since Google also don't care to stop people from constantly uploading the same "privacy violating" video. The complainant will click the moan button, a script will automatically send email, it waits a little while, it deletes the video, someone uploads a new one. Rinse and repeat.