The private videos of some Google Photos users were accidentally shared with other people. Here’s how to secure online files to protect them from exposure.

Google video bug

Google video bug

Many people store documents, photos, videos, and other files online. In doing so, they expect those files to remain private and secure unless they choose to share them. But a glitch that affected some Google Photos users shows that private, cloud-based files can be vulnerable unless precautions are taken.

On Monday, Google sent emails to certain Google Photos users alerting them of a problem that affected them in late November 2019, as described by 9to5Google. For some Google Photos users who turned to Google Takeout between November 21 and 25 to download their data, one or more of their videos were “incorrectly exported to unrelated users’ archives,” meaning that other people were able to see them. On the flip side, some Google Photos users who requested a download of their files received the videos of other users.

Screenshots of the emails from Google were posted on Twitter by Duo Security founder and Chief Technology Officer Jon Oberheide, whose initial comment was “Whoa, what, @googlephotos?” Oberheide asked Google for more information on which and how many videos were impacted and how many parties received them. In response, Google said: “Unfortunately, we’re not able to provide a full list of impacted videos.”

Sharing further details, Google said that less than 0.01% of Photos users attempting Takeouts were affected, and no other product was affected. But in July 2019, Google revealed that its Photos service had signed up more than a billion users, according to a story in Fast Company, so the number of people affected by this glitch is not insignificant.

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