The infinite cache

Google is famous for caching information, making it almost impossible to rub out your tracks once you’ve posted something on the web. The gossip rags are littered with evidence of this, with some or other bugger having egg on their face after drawing attention to something simply by deleting it.

This is great and part of what makes the web such an exciting place to be. It’s that old information super-highway, brushing molecules away from the end of your giant toe as you dip.

I feel there is an exception to this general rule, which is when you have content that is not publicly published and you want to make it so. In this case, it’s possible you might want to chuck some of the more sensitive bits before you lift the curtain.

A relevant example is the storing of passwords on private wiki pages. With some wiki systems – MediaWiki and Google Sites (which I use a lot) included – deleting a page counts as a new revision, so it becomes impossible to completely delete a page. Curious about this, I had a look at the relevant section of the Google Privacy Policy and found this statement:

You may permanently delete any content you create in Google Sites. Because of the way we maintain this service, residual copies of your files and other information associated with your account may remain on our servers for three weeks.

So I’m doing an experiment to see whether this intention has made it into a feature. I’ve made a page on one of my wikis called ‘testToDelete’ and I’ve deleted it. At this point, I have the ability to recover the page. If that option hasn’t been paralysed within three weeks, I’ll be in touch with Google waving my complaining stick. I deeply suspect that the permanent deletion rule only applies to entire sites… does anyone have any light to shed on this?

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