Google Takeout Backups Ended Up in the Wrong People’s Computers

By Bill Toulas / February 4, 2020

Google has done a massive error, sending private videos and images of users to the wrong backup archives which belong to other people. This happened between November 21 and 25, 2019, and the company is now sending notifications to the affected users, the exact number of whom has not been determined. The huge mistake happened on Google Takeout, a service that allows users to download their data from Google apps and migrate them to another service. Somehow, many of these backups were sent to the wrong users’ computers, exposing users to strangers.

The impact of this blunder is humongous, and it depends on how much data Google holds on each person. For example, if someone had intimate photos and videos stored on Google Photos, then they’re obviously screwed for good. Now, Google urges the recipients of the data to delete the material that they downloaded in November, and which doesn’t belong to them. At the same time, they assure the affected that the issue has been fully resolved. This sounds almost too funny to be true, yet Google is really asking people to delete the data and request a fresh export now.

Google stated that only Takeout was affected by this error. In numbers, they claim that only about 0.01% of Photos users were impacted by this. While the percentage is small, the actual number of people could reach a dizzying figure. This is the statement that Google provided to 9to5Google who exposed the incident:

“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.”

Google Takeout is a project that was launched back in 2011, helping people export their data from Google services selectively or in bulk. If you would like to delete the data that Google holds about your activity, you may do so by following the instructions on this webpage. Of course, even after doing this, some data will still be retained by Google for an extended period of time to meet specific business needs or even legal requirements.

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