Google Says It Sent Some People's Private Videos to Strangers

A bug in Google's Takeout tool sent some users' content to other accounts.
Google apps.
Image via Getty Images

Google is "very sorry" for sending some user's private videos to strangers' accounts.

Google Photos users who downloaded an archive of their data using the company's Takeout service between November 21 and 25 might have had some of their videos sent to other people's accounts instead, according to an error reported last night by 9to5Google.

Google emailed a notice about the "technical issue" in early February, alerting users who received it that "one or more videos in your Google Photos account was affected by this issue," according to a screenshot of the email tweeted by CTO of security firm Duo Security Jon Oberheide:


“These users may have received either an incomplete archive, or videos—not photos—that were not theirs," a Google spokesperson told Motherboard. "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 doesn't specify how many users were affected, or what "fixed" means. When asked whether Google removed the errant content from accounts it didn't belong in, the spokesperson said, "No, but we have recommended users perform another export of their content and delete their prior export."

Although Google explicitly said photos weren’t shared in its statement to 9to5Google, and confirmed that it was only videos, to Motherboard, one affected Reddit user said they noticed photos that aren't theirs in their export. "Got a couple pics of pets/places that I have absolutely no memory of," they said.

It goes without saying: Don't keep any sensitive or otherwise private videos or photos in a cloud service, and turn off auto-syncing for all images if you're worried about bugs or security breaches compromising your content. For a complete guide to safely storing all sorts of images, check out Motherboard's guide to safe sexting. Security that works for nudes, works for everything.

Update 2/4, 11:50 a.m.: This article was updated to include a statement and information from a Google spokesperson.