Google Acknowledges Some Private Videos of Google Photos Users Were Sent to Strangers

The company admitted that only a small number of Google Photos users were affected.
Fabienne Lang

Imagine opening up your Google account one day and seeing a video sent to you directly. It's not a video you've made, saved, or chosen. It's a complete stranger's video. 

Now imagine you've just received an email from Google stating that Google Photos sent your personal video to a stranger. 

That's exactly what happened in November last year. Google has now fessed up to the issue by sending messages to the people involved. 


How did this happen?

Google's Takeout service, which allows people to download their data, suffered a "technical issue" between November 21, and 25 last year. The result was people receiving private videos that weren't theirs. 

On February 3rd, Google started alerting Takeout users about the issue. What happened was that Takeout users who requested backups between the dates of November 21 and 25 could have had their videos from Google Photos sent incorrectly to other, random, users. 

In their email, Google didn't mention the exact number of those affected. However, as reported in 9to5Google, less than 0.01 percent of Google Photos users who use Takeout were affected. 

One thing to bear in mind here is that there are roughly one billion Google Photos users, so even a small percentage amounts to a relatively substantial amount of shared private videos. 

In a rather nonchalant manner, Google has "apologized for any inconvenience this may have caused."

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If there's any positive note to make of this, it's that no photos were mistakenly shared, only videos. However, that may be of little solace to those involved. 

Google stated that the issue has been resolved, and in their direct correspondence with 9to5Google, the company stated:

"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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