Most people don’t give a second thought to using Google Photos to store and share their personal images and videos—until something goes wrong. Like this: Google is warning some users that their videos might have accidentally ended up in someone else’s hands.
Before you freak out, let us explain. According to a tweet from Jon Oberheide, who was a victim of the breach, it took place between November 21, 2019, and November 25, 2019, and involved Google Takeout, which lets you export a copy of content in your Google Account to back it up or use it with a third-party service. It’s not clear exactly what went wrong, but Google says “some videos in Google Photos were incorrectly exported to unrelated users’ archives.” Photos were not affected, Google says.
Google says the underlying issue has been identified and resolved, so it appears to be related to a bug, not any malicious activity. Emails are being sent to people who were affected by the issue, so if you don’t get one, your videos are safe.
While no one wants their personal videos sent to strangers, this breach isn’t nearly as bad as it could be. For one, it only lasted five days, and it was specifically related to the export of data using Google Takeout, which most people probably don’t even know about. So that’s an extremely small percentage of users.
Granted, it would have been nice if Google alerted users when it happened, rather than two months later—and if you’re one of the affected users, you aren’t going to care about statistics—but you probably shouldn’t freak out and pull all of your photos off of the service. It’s not a bad idea to take this opportunity to prune your library of any highly sensitive photos or videos, though.