Google Photos video backups sent to strangers last year

With Google Takeout, you can download your data from Google apps as a backup or for use with another service. Unfortunately, a brief issue with the tool last November saw your videos in Google Photos possibly get exported to strangers’ archives. Google this evening began alerting Takeout users about the “technical issue.” From November 21-25, 2019, those that requested backups could have had videos in Google Photos “incorrectly exported to unrelated users’ archives.” In requesting a backup, some of your videos — but not pictures — might be visible to random users that were also downloading their data through Google Takeout. The company did not specify what media was affected beyond “one or more videos in your Google Photos account was affected by this issue.”

Whoa, what? @googlephotos? pic.twitter.com/2cZsABz1xb

— Jon Oberheide (@jonoberheide)

Another implication is that the Google Photos archive you downloaded during that five-day period is incomplete and missing some of your videos, while strangers’ media might be present. Google asks users to delete that previous export, and request another one. According to the company, less than 0.01% of Photos users attempting Takeouts were affected, and no other product was affected.

We recommend you perform another export of your content and delete your prior export at this time.

The underlying issue has been “identified and resolved,” and Google ended the email to affected customers with an apology. Google also provided 9to5Google with the following comment this evening:

“We are notifying people about a bug that may have affected users who used Google Takeout to export their Google Photos content between November 21 and November 25. These users may have received either an incomplete archive, or videos—not photos—that were not theirs. We fixed the underlying issue and have conducted an in-depth analysis to help prevent this from ever happening again. We are very sorry this happened.”

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