All About Images Blog

Effect of Probability on Preservation-1

I recently presented a talk titled “Preservation Is Forever.” In this talk, I reviewed the Terms of Service for many online services offering photo products and digital storage. Many of these services have terms indicating that they can delete photos after a period of time (typically one year without ordering) or otherwise discontinue or change their service. These statements are correct, but they should not be interpreted as indicating that they will do this, only that their is a risk of something bad happening.

Here’s where we need to discuss statistics. If there is a 10% chance of something bad happening in a given year, after seven years your photos are more likely to be lost than preserved.  With a 20% chance of of loss, this time decreases to four years. The same problem happens if we assume lower probabilities, although it takes longer. With a 5% chance of loss, your data is more likely to be lost than preserved after 14 years, and with a 2% chance of loss your data is likely lost after 35 years.

What is the actual chance of loss? I don’t know, but my estimate is that in any given year, the probability for loss is between 5 and 10%, given the many things that can change with online businesses. If this is in fact the case, then Forever, which states that it will preserve your data for your lifetime plus 100 years, is really the only option for long-term preservation. The reason Forever meets this need is because the Forever Guarantee Fund provides the resources to ensure long-term preservation, eliminating risks associated with other online businesses.

Note: To calculate years lifetime, use the formula Y=Log(0.5)/Log(1-p), where Y represents the expected lifetime in years, 0.5 represents 50% chance of data preservation, and p is the annual probability of data loss.

Mizen_Chinese Text Quality_20150928_Page_02_crop

I am glad I live in the U.S. and do not have to worry about writing Chinese characters. My handwriting is bad enough, and I can’t imagine what it would look like if I had to reproduce the complexities of Chinese characters on a regular basis. Chinese characters have up to 29 or more strokes compared to a maximum of four with the Latin characters used for English. Small font sizes make the difficulty of reproducing these characters even greater.

I presented a technical paper on  the “Mizen_Relationship Between Chinese Text Quality and Card Printing_20150928” at Imaging Science and Technology’s NIP31 International Conference on Digital Printing Technologies in Portland, OR on September 28, 2015.

Representative Chinese character with 19 strokes

Representative Chinese character with 19 strokes

  • We cannot predict whether a given printing system will satisfactorily reproduce Chinese text. The best approach is to print and then evaluate sample text.
  • High-contrast printing systems give the highest image quality.
  • Resolution is important, with 600-1200 dpi required for small font sizes.
  • White text on a black background is more difficult to reproduce that black text on white due to expansion of the printed area.
  • Single color printing gives better quality than composite color.

Mizen_Preservation is Forever_20150925_Page_01

[Presented at Forever Live! in Buckhead, Georgia, September 25, 2015]

This past year I went to Disney with my family. The trip lased one week; yet, the memories are forever.

Mizen_Preservation is Forever_20150925_Page_04For Disney, Forever means 30 days, since all photos in Disney MemoryMaker expire in 30 days. Disney will even tell you the very minute photos expire. They expire at 11:59pm EST on the 30th day.

Disney is not alone. Photos on other online photo sites have expirations as well. For Costco, Snapfish, Walgreens, and Walmart this expiration date is one year, if you don’t place an order. Heritage Maker’s gives you a bit longer with 18 months.

Mizen_Preservation is Forever_20150925_Page_07Forever, on the other hand, promises to preserve your photos for 100 years or longer and they give you specific details. Your content will be available for your lifetime plus 100 years, it will be accessible with current technology, and it will be preserved through natural disasters, wars, terrorism, economic depressions, and other events that cause major disruptions in society.

The Forever Guarantee Fund ensures permanent preservation. This fund provides the financial resources to preserve files stored on Forever.

Mizen_Preservation is Forever_20150925_Page_13The situation is actually much worse than I have described because most services can shut down and delete your photos at any time.   Shutterfly and Dropbox explicitly state that they can terminate your account at any time. Pinterest simply reserves the right to refuse service at any time. All this talk about termination is scary!

Mizen_Preservation is Forever_20150925_Page_14Terms of Service can also change at any time. Facebook is noted for continually changing its service, and Google can suspend or stop a service altogether.

To understand this situation, we need to look at the business models companies operate under. E-commerce and social media sites are not photo preservation sites. E-commerce sites sell products, and social media sites sell advertising. Photo preservation sites preserve photos. The objectives are different. Do not confuse them. Photo preservation requires a site with a business model based on preserving photos, not one based on advertising or selling photo products.

Now for a quiz:

  1. Digital photos are…
    A. Just like traditional film photos.
    B. Preserved in digital cameras or on cell phones.
    C. Saved by posting them to Facebook.
    D. Vulnerable to viruses, hardware failure, deletion, and easily lost to new technology.
  2. The average photo site will preserve photos…
    A. For the next 365 days, except for leap year when you get an extra day.
    B. Until you run out of money and stop ordering.
    C. Until it runs out of money and fails.
    D. All of the above.
  3. E-commerce and preservation are
    A. The headings from two Jeopardy categories.
    B. The names of two competing NFL teams.
    C. Two rock bands.
    D. Different business objectives that should not be confused.
  4. The Forever Guarantee Fund is
    A. A Department of Homeland Security plan to fight terrorism.
    B. Volkswagen’s proposal to pay for violating air pollution laws.
    C. The U.S. Government’s program to bail out the banking industry.
    D. Over a million dollars dedicated to preserving photos for the future.
  5. Ed and Noah are
    A. 40,000 photos old.
    B. The future.
    C. Preserved for at least 100 years with Forever.
    D. All of the above.

In all cases, the answer is D.

The complete presentation is available at Mizen_Preservation is Forever_20150925.


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued new guidelines prohibiting photos of clocks, watches, and other timepieces because of concern that these photos will provide aid to terrorist organizations seeking to create clocks that look like bombs. This new regulations prohibits taking, editing, or storing photographs that provide information on timekeeping. Google is reportedly working to remove all photos of clocks and watches from its image database. When asked about other timepieces, DHS Secretary John Irving indicated that photos of sundials and hourglasses are also prohibited since they can be used to conceal explosive devices.

Note added September 26, 2015: This article is based on 14-year old Ahmed Mohamed who was arrested in Irving, Texas for building a clock that his teacher thought was a bomb. For more details see Muslim teen Ahmed Mohamed creates clock, shows teachers, gets arrested.

Selfie2015_no text-33

Apparently, stupid selfies are not restricted to Russia. Yes, that is right. The United States needs its own public service campaign. In case you missed the story, Alex Gomez, 36, from Lake Elsinore, CA was bitten by a rattlesnake he picked up to take a selfie with.

In the interest of public safety, I have developed the “No Selfie with Rattlesnakes” sign above. Feel free to post this sign wherever rattlesnakes may be present.

Fortunately, I live near Minneapolis, and we don’t have rattlesnakes here.


All opinions expressed in this blog are mine, not HID Global's.

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