Google Photos users may want to be on the lookout for a message from the company after the company's Takeout service made some users' content available to complete strangers. That's according to recent reports that have begun cropping up surrounding the incident.
Specifically, the search giant indicates that the issue took place between November 21 and November 25 of last year. It impacts Google Takeout users who created and downloaded a backup through the service. During that time, a technical error occurred in the system, Google says. As a result, videos were "incorrectly" exported to other users who were utilizing the tool at the same time.
Videos, in particular, appear to be at the heart of the problem. So users don't necessarily need to worry about their photos showing up in strangers' archives. The technical glitch hasn't affected any of Google's other products either.
This is linked to Google Takeout and that's a good thing
The reach of the Google Takeout Glitch should have, Google says, only impact around 0.01-percent of Google Photos users. That is at least, in part, down to the fact that the underlying problem appears to have occurred in the link between TakeOut and Google Photos.
While not entirely unknown, Google Takeout is a less commonly used product from the search giant that's explicitly designed to help users create backups. For instance, it was the go-to tool for users when Google shut down the consumer side of the Google+ social networking site and app. Taking that into consideration, it isn't too surprising the overall scope of the breach here isn't larger.
If the problem had been directly in Google Photos, the results may have more closely resembled breaches that have recently been seen in other photo-sharing apps. For instance, it may have more fallen more in line with the early 2019 cyberattack on 500px. While that breach was malicious in nature, it ultimately resulted in the exposure of all 14.8 million users.
The Google Photos mobile application has, as of this writing, been downloaded more than 1 billion times. It also ships pre-installed on many, if not most, modern Android smartphones, as the go-to photo backup tool for users on the platform. That's without consideration for users on other platforms such as iOS. So the potential for a much larger leak of content was undeniably higher here.
No recourse but at least the problem's fixed
Users are being warned by Google that they need to delete their previous export if one was downloaded during the above-mentioned dates in question. Not only is it possible that those backups contain videos that don't belong to the users in question. Those could also be incomplete. That would, if an issue occurs with an account, result in lost content. So another backup should be made.
According to Google, the problem undergirding the technical glitch should also be completely fixed as of this writing. In the interim, the company is alerting all users who "may have" been impacted. But it may be prudent to go through the steps of deleting previous exports and downloading a new one regardless.