Thursday, December 14, 2023

Google Reneges on Unlimited Storage and on Read-Only Preservation

Mike Masnick (Hacker News):

We’ve written a few times about independent journalist Tim Burke. Earlier this year, the FBI raided his house and seized all of his electronic devices after he had obtained and published some leaked video footage from Fox News. As we noted, this seemed like a pretty big 1st Amendment issue. Burke is also facing bogus CFAA charges because he was able to access the footage by using publicly accessible URLs to obtain the content.

But, with all of his devices seized, Burke at least still had Google Cloud to keep all of the massive troves of (mostly video) data he’s collected over the last few years of reporting. Burke said he paid Google “a lot of money for a long time” for an “unlimited” cloud storage account. This was a plan that was offered to Google “Enterprise” Workspace customers for a while. However, in the last year or so, they simply phased out that plan, which really sucked for those who had a ton of data.


[They] told those who had formerly used a ton of storage on their unlimited plan, that their account would go into “read-only” mode and they wouldn’t be allowed to upload any more data. Tim Burke and his 237.22 TB of video files were among those put into read only mode, which he assumed meant that, at least, that content would be kept safe (hopefully until he could get the feds to return all of his computer equipment).

Instead, over the weekend, Google reached out to say that since he’s using too much storage, they’re going to delete his entire account in seven days (later this week).

That doesn’t even seem like enough time to download all of the data, even if he had the equipment to do so.

Nick Heer:

Blaming people for not having local copies of everything is such a lazy slight. Google markets Drive as a “secure place” to “use less of your PC/Mac disk space” by keeping files only in the cloud. After all, is that not the point of cloud storage? The software encourages us to go beyond just synchronizing our files between computers and entrust it as an extension of our local storage, so of course people are generally going to treat it as just another disk.


If you search the web or Google’s forums, you will find other stories of users consuming large amounts of Google Drive space suddenly being told they must delete files. It is an unfair bait-and-switch. These are certainly a minority of users and are extreme in their data requirements, but it seems impossible that Google would not consider that this would happen — that is to say Google did, in all likelihood, recognize that some people would take up dozens of terabytes of cloud storage when offered the opportunity, and the company either did not have a plan or, worse, its plan was to shut off unlimited access and tell people to delete stuff.

One can be forgiven for trusting what Google said, especially when paying for an enterprise plan. This sounds very different from the consumer-oriented Amazon Cloud Drive. But I think people need to learn that no unlimited plan is actually unlimited. The real crime here is that Google didn’t provide reasonable notice that it was reneging the second time.


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I don’t know about enterprise accounts, but the consumer Google Drive accounts have a daily transfer limit of 750 GB, so a week notice for >200 TB wouldn’t be enough time for sure.

> Blaming people for not having local copies of everything is such a lazy slight. Google markets Drive as…

They are not mutually exclusive though.

Google behaved like shit here, no doubt. But was he born yesterday? This is Google’s typical behaviour. And as a journalist, whose jobs it is to speak truth to power, why give all that data to such a powerful entity?

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