May 22, 2024

The secret, illicit underside of Google Drive

You can use it for what?

Turns out that Google Drive is a whole lot less buttoned up than you may have thought.

The file-sharing service typically associated with spreadsheets and office life has a dirty little secret, and it’s one that our Mountain View overlords may not be so stoked on. Namely, the service is a haven for illegal file-sharing.

While those looking to score, say, pirated Game of Thrones episodes may first turn to big-name torrenting sites like The Pirate Bay, copyright scofflaws in the know are apparently taking advantage of the generous free 15GB of storage offered by Google Drive to host and share copies of popular movies and television shows.

It’s business in the front, illegal file-sharing in the back.

According to Gadgets360, which reviewed a host of DMCA takedown requests, copyright holders filed almost 5,000 requests in August for Google to pull material from Drive — compared to approximately 100 requests for file-hosting site MEGA and less than 12 requests for Dropbox.

The offending goods reportedly include both your standard video files as well as a unique twist on the file sharing MO: Instead of uploading entire movies or shows to Drive itself, people are dropping in scores of unlisted YouTube links.

Essentially, the idea is that unlisted links are less likely to be spotted by automated systems crawling for this sort of thing and are therefore less likely to be pulled. Putting a collection of those links in one Drive and sharing it over social media is like passing around a secret phonebook containing the listings for all your favorite pirated content.

No need to head into these waters — Google Drive might just offer a safer harbor.

In some sense, this is a return to form for digital scallawags who once relied on (now defunct) file-hosting sites like Megaupload and YouSendIt to share music and video. While it’s true that the popularity and ease of torrenting files — a competing method of piracy — may have kept the casual pirate away from current versions of those sites, with torrent hubs like The Pirate Bay forever in the crosshairs of authorities it makes sense that people are looking to other methods.

Google Drive just so happens to be just the latest version of this: All the fun of MEGA with a veneer of legitimacy offered by Google. It’s business in the front, illegal file-sharing in the back.

What does Google think about this? We reached out to the company for comment, and a spokesperson assured us they take the matter seriously.

“Google Drive has a variety of piracy counter-measures in place,” the spokesperson explained via email, “and we are continuously working to improve our protections to prevent piracy across all of our products.”

And yeah, it’s safe to assume upper management isn’t stoked about this development. After all, no company wants its services used to break the law — at least not in a way that doesn’t benefit it financially.

But pirates gonna pirate, and it appears they have discovered a new home in Google Drive. Time will tell how welcoming they find it.

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