Google Accidentally Sent Private Videos Stored in Google Photos to Strangers

Google Photos Unlimited Storage Credit: BigTunaOnline / Shutterstock
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Google is nonchalantly letting some of its users know that it somehow sent private videos stored in Google Photos to total strangers.

The technology giant said that its Takeout service, which lets users download their data, was impacted by a technical issue in November 2019. As a result, an apparently small number of users ended up receiving incomplete data archives or private videos that weren’t theirs.

Specifically, users who used the Takeout service between Nov. 21 to 25, 2019 to request data may have received videos from other users. Google also notified some users that their videos had been exported to another user’s export.

In an email to impacted users, Google said that it has identified and fixed the bug within five days. It also recommended that users delete their past data exports and download another — since it may have been incomplete or riddled with clips from random strangers.

The message didn’t contain any details on how many accounts were affected or how many private videos were inadvertently distributed either. It also doesn’t appear that Google highlighted which specific videos were leaked.

In a statement to 9to5Google, the company said that less than 0.01% of Google Photos users that tried to use Takeout during the buggy period were impacted. (No other services were affected either.)

Google Photos has more than 1 billion users, so 0.01% is still significant. On the other hand, Google noted that only users attempting to export data via Takeout ran into the bug.

Takeout, which is also known as “Takeaway” in some regions or “Download your data” on Google’s website, is a service that allows users to get an export copy of their data for backup purposes or use in another app.

Google doesn’t have the most sterling reputation when it comes to data privacy, but more than anything else, the issue just highlights some of the potential risks of storing your data on a company’s cloud servers.

The Mountain View firm apologized to its Photos users for any “inconvenience” the bug may have caused.

“We fixed the underlying issue and have conducted an in-depth analysis to help prevent this from ever happening again,” Google said. “We are very sorry this happened.”

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