Over the summer most IT teams are eyeballs-deep in projects that couldn’t be performed over a long weekend or during the traditional school year. The focus is on high level, large projects that impact users as a whole without them knowing it. This could be the configuration of a new firewall, a server upgrade, or migration. It might even be a full network upgrade. The last thing on their minds is YouTube. And yet, over this year’s summer months is when some of the most disruptive changes to YouTube came.
Early on in the summer, Google announced that YouTube’s brand accounts would no longer be available for primary/secondary education domains. They stated that all accounts which had an associated brand account attached would need to export the data using Google Takeout by changing to the Takeout account’s profile or transfer ownership of the branded channel to a customer (gmail.com) or non-Google for Education domain if they did not want the content deleted. Several schools provided feedback that they were not comfortable moving their brand account content to a non-Google Workspace account.
This original notification gave an initial date of July 2 to complete a form to request additional time and indicated that by July 15 Google was going to start deleting data. Later they updated it to suspension of the accounts rather than immediate deletion, providing additional time to go through the requisite steps to preserve user’s video content and channel. Google also offered an option for SuperAdmins to whitelist certain individuals or groups to keep their brand education accounts intact until July 15, 2020. These notifications were delivered to the end-users well as the primary domain admin for the organization configured in the company profile portion of the Admin console.
Starting on July 15th, Google started to suspend brand accounts and send out notifications to users that their brand accounts had been suspended. Within the email, they reference this support article, which explains why this has happened and how to get the content back. One major result of the account suspensions that were not foreseen by administrators or Google, is that if a user had configured their brand account to be the default account to use when signing into YouTube, they could not view YouTube videos at all until they changed the default channel by selecting the box under “Settings > Advanced Settings” within YouTube.
To get to this page users need to sign-out of Google (or delete their cookies) then navigate to youtube.com/channel_switcher and sign in again, remembering to change the default channel once they sign-in. Once this has been done on one device, it will fix the issue on other devices.
How did my users get brand accounts
Typically there are 3 main reasons a user would create a brand account.
First would be the intended use that YouTube had in mind when they created them – to allow more than one person access to a YouTube channel for managing content and comments. Schools would do this to permit multiple individuals within the school access to the public face of the school’s YouTube content.
Next is for organizational purposes. This is the typical use for teachers; people that would want to have a video related to their class in compartmentalized away from other classes they taught. It also allowed them to give the YouTube URL a user-friendly name, where the primary account channel uses the standard random characters for your channel URL.
Finally, would be to bypass the YouTube restricted mode settings set in place by administrators. This was one of the reasons stated by Google that they pulled the plug on brand accounts so abruptly. When a user is on a brand account they are no longer treated as the managed user, and can view, comment, post whatever they’d like to YouTube as an unmanaged user. If DNS settings were in place, they were restricted, but could not view whitelisted videos. Needless to say, this reason was the primary reason a brand account was created by students.
So what now
With Google moving primary/secondary education domains away from YouTube’s brand accounts, admins and users are asking what options do we have to keep our content? There are really three options, and one possible workaround. All of the options will require that the users be whitelisted to regain access to their brand Account and make the necessary changes.
Migrate data to managed account
Option one, users can move their uploaded data to the channel associated with their primary managed account. This would mainly be teachers and those which created a YouTube brand accounts primarily to separate content into different subjects. Users that were doing this were using brand accounts for organization purposes. While brand accounts are going away, primary channels still support setting up a channel and uploading videos. As for organization, PlayLists provide a way to organize and separate out videos for each subject, much how branded channels were being used before.
Transfer ownership of brand account
Option two, transfer the primary ownership of the Brand account to a gmail.com account. Depending on the brand Account reason, this could either be a service account (firstname.lastname@example.org) or possibly the teacher’s personal account. In the event of this being the teacher’s personal account, school administrators would want to ensure that all FERPA guidelines were being followed concerning individual student educational records.
Whitelist and wait
Option three, wait to see if anything changes. Identify any users that may have content within the organization by checking the CSV sent to the primary domain admin’s email account. You can find this email with the following search query in Google Vault:
has:attachment AND subject:(“Important information about brand accounts”)
Add all the members in the .csv file that would have legitimate content and that are over 18 and add them to an internal Group on your domain. Then fill out this form by November 1, 2019, to preserve and unsuspend the brand accounts for these users. DO THIS NOW! DO NOT WAIT UNTIL NOVEMBER – You will thank us later.
I would recommend this option for anyone that is holding out for Google to provide an alternative to the first two options, keeping in mind that if no alternative comes, you would have until July 2020 to do one of the first two. Also, the whitelist process can take some time to allow users access to their brand account and channel content again. Some reports have come back that it has been three weeks since they requested their user’s accounts be whitelisted, and their users brand accounts still have not been restored.
Disable the YouTube service
And lastly, the workaround that was just brought to our attention. For users that need to view videos but cannot due to not being able to get the brand account removed, you can turn the YouTube service OFF for them. The caveat here is that the users would not have the whitelisted videos available to them if a video were restricted. This would be useful for students that are unable to remove their brand accounts due to the current limitation to delete a brand account while it’s suspended.
Google took these actions based on the impact that brand accounts were having when students signed up for them. It provided a way for kids to not have the restrictions that were configured on their accounts take affect. Were it not for the need to whitelist videos that are not visible when using restricted mode, most schools would leave the YouTube service off for their student users. But while this remains a requirement, and until we have some additional controls over things like channel creation, uploading videos, blacklisting videos, channels, or categories, YouTube will always be an item to watch closely and submit feedback for when issues arise.
Q: Can you block the comments from showing up in YouTube videos?
A: When you enforce restricted mode, comments are disabled by default.
Q: Can you block students from creating channels?
A: You can discourage it by adding the following URLs to the URL Blacklist on the student OrgUnit. This will only block them when they are signed in to Chrome, and won’t affect other browsers or mobile apps.
Q: Why can’t my users find videos that have been whitelisted?
A: Whitelisting a video only makes it playable. It does not make it show up in the search results.
If you would like assistance with managing your settings or training your team, book some time in with our technical services team by reaching out to email@example.com. Learn more about the various ways we can help your team.
Technical Support Analyst
About the Author:
Stephen lives in Utah and enjoys the puzzle of investigating users’ problems and finding potential solutions. A recovering/reformed Gamer, Stephen throws himself into his passion for staying on top of all things Chrome OS and Chromebook related. Prior to joining Amplified IT, Stephen served as a Network Admin in a Therapeutic Boarding School and an IT director, where he implemented Google Workspace for Education. Stephen has studied computer science and security at Weber State University, Western Governors University. A self-anointed honor, Stephen likes Chromebooks more than almost anyone else in the world.