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PSA: Google Will Delete Your Android Backups If Your Device Is Inactive For Two Months (vernonchan.com) 166

New submitter Vernon Chan writes: It was discovered that Google will automatically schedule to delete your Android device backups if it is inactive for more than two months. The issue was discovered by a Reddit user after his Nexus 6P was sent for a refund claim. He was using an old iPhone while he waited for an Android replacement device. When he glanced at his Google Drive Backup folder, he freaked out when he noticed his Nexus 6P backup was missing. He then stumbled upon this Google Drive help document regarding backup expirations: "Your backup will remain as long as you use your device. If you don't use your device for 2 weeks, you may see an expiration date below your backup. For instance: 'Expires in 54 days.'" Once a backup is deleted, there is zero chance for recovery.
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PSA: Google Will Delete Your Android Backups If Your Device Is Inactive For Two Months

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  • by Teun ( 17872 ) on Thursday September 14, 2017 @05:03PM (#55198921) Homepage
    That's why I do my own back ups, both local and remote.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 14, 2017 @05:11PM (#55198991)

      This seems about right. Phone user is not the customer, he's the product. Since the product isn't in use, Google purged the data. Since they give away the storage space, they need a short retention time or it gets too big and unwieldy. This is why I don't make myself the product. I pay for things like email and backup storage. With this model, my ISP has a financial incentive to keep my data online and not remove it. Which is why I still have files from 1995 in my ISP account, and why that ISP has cloned and moved that data from system to system for the last 20+ years. It's not foolproof, but it definitely prevents dumb ass policies that nuke data after only a few months.

      • There are also security and privacy issue here. Exactly how long would you like your personal data to be remembered after you lose your device? Remember, that data can be handed to police if they have a valid warrant, and don't forget about China's attack on Google. Do you really want Google to remember your data forever?

        There needs to be some threshold for data retention. The government would like that to be 10 years. What's your vote?

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          How about no sooner and no later than I log in to my account from a browser and say I no longer need my backups.

          • That's assumingthat you are able to log into your account to remove the data. May not be the best approach.

            • by sjames ( 1099 )

              Considering that you can use a public library system to log in if necessary, that seems unlikely to be a problem.

              • Not if you lost your credentials, not if you're injured and in a coma, not if you're in custody or kidnapped.

                There is a reason why setups like this are usually called "Dead man switch".

                • If a "dead man switch" is really necessary they should let the user decide on the duration on how long to keep the data.
                • by sjames ( 1099 )

                  If it's all that important, you should probably be sure to keep your credentials safe. If you're in a coma, the odds are you won't be making any decisions about your data for a while. Of course if we're going to play what if, what if you wake from the coma with amnesia and the only hints about who you are or who should be contacted evaporated a month before?

                  If you REALLY need a deadman switch, I suppose one might optionally be provided, but perhaps you should entrust someone with a password so they can burn

        • My vote is to store my data myself and decide how long it's kept and who gets to see it.

      • Phone user is not the customer, he's the product. Since the product isn't in use, Google purged the data.

        Oh look that old meme again. As if Google has no incentive to ensure their products are happy and continue being the products.

        Since they give away the storage space, they need a short retention time or it gets too big and unwieldy.

        Err no, backups don't grow indefinitely.

        his is why I don't make myself the product. I pay for things like email and backup storage. With this model, my ISP has a financial incentive to keep my data online and not remove it.

        hahahahahhaha. Friday comedy gold. You considered doing stand-up? It would really please all the people who lost their data from similar subscription services for similar reasons you don't understand because you parrot the same "you are the product" meme without applying any thought.

    • Exactly so.

    • by crunchygranola ( 1954152 ) on Thursday September 14, 2017 @07:08PM (#55199657)

      I wish I could mod you up to "6"!

      Seriously - anything in the cloud is volatile storage and unless you are paying for it you can expect one day the service "provider" will decide to stop providing. Even if you do pay for the service, you are entirely at the mercy of their competence and the durability of their business model.

  • by sgage ( 109086 ) on Thursday September 14, 2017 @05:05PM (#55198941)

    This is really unbelievably crap behavior by Google. You can have a trillion emails on your gmail account forever, but you phone backup goes away in 2 months? WTF?

    • Let's hope Google doesn't notice what you just posted about Gmail.

      Never mind, actually. The value of your Gmail archive as a data mine is far greater. They probably have ethical issues regarding our Android backups. We clicked right through a specific agreement when we signed up for Gmail.

      • Do you really think so? How many people outside the tech world use email often? It's all texts and instant messaging now. Heck, we might be past that. I don't keep up

        • How many people outside the tech world use email often?

          Quite a lot. Pretty much everyone that I know uses email. Not exclusively, but frequently.

    • On the flip side it makes it a lot harder for governments or hackers to get old data on a person. I'd personally be much happier if the amount of time companies kept information was something that I could have a say in.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Ohhhh you think they delete everything? How silly of you. They still retain everything they mined, it's just the useful bits you needed that were deleted. Silly user.

      • Google will just keep the data that's useful/valuable to them

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Playing devil's advocate here - the backup data is probably not easily monetized by Google (read / parse for information to sell, etc.) and is bulky to store...the cash to weight ratio doesn't make it profitable.

      E-mail on the other hand is pretty light weight and can easily be monetized :) keep it for as long as profitable.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      This is really unbelievably crap behavior by Google. You can have a trillion emails on your gmail account forever, but you phone backup goes away in 2 months? WTF?

      Why does everyone get so entitled when they use a free service?

      Its a free service, they can set whatever terms they like. Also, all you have to do is connect to the service once every 2 months to keep it going.

      Can someone please explain what is evil here, because I'm not exactly seeing any kittens being tortured here.

  • Just two months? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Thursday September 14, 2017 @05:07PM (#55198953) Homepage

    Seems radically low. Some people go on foreign vacation for that long and don't use their phone.

    One year would be reasonable.

    If you don't use your phone for one year, you should have no expectation that the data is still there.

    But two months = idiots that only looked at most common usage patterns.

    • by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Thursday September 14, 2017 @09:37PM (#55200255) Homepage Journal

      Seems radically low. Some people go on foreign vacation for that long and don't use their phone.

      One year would be reasonable.

      If you don't use your phone for one year, you should have no expectation that the data is still there.

      But two months = idiots that only looked at most common usage patterns.

      Meh. Keep in mind that the data we're talking about is "device configuration, such as wallpaper, WiFi passwords, and default apps." We're not talking about your contacts, which are synced with Google Contacts, or your emails, which are synced with GMail, or your docs, spreadsheets, presentations or Drive files, which are synced with Drive, or your photos, which are synced with Google Photos, or... I could go on, but you get the idea.

      Each of the Google apps backs its own data up independently, using your Drive storage, and all of that is separate from this "phone backup". The only thing the phone backup really does is streamline the process of setting up a new device, so all of your apps are auto-downloaded, WiFi passwords are auto-configured, etc.

      OTOH, we're talking about such small amounts of data that I don't know why it's only kept for two months.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      It's a free backup service... If you want long term backups, you need to take care of them yourself.

      Also note that it's only certain phone data, the stuff people really care about like photos, videos and email are all stored for the lifetime of the gmail account or up to the free Google Drive limit (something like 5GB for mail last time I checked).

    • Some people go on foreign vacation for that long and don't use their phone.

      huh? I don't think I've ever seen anyone go on vacation without using their phone. WiFi, and local SIM cards are so incredibly prevalent that unless you're climbing Mt Everest you're probably likely to not only take your phone on vacation but likely use it too.

      errr. Nope I was wrong. Looks like using your phone on Mt Everest isn't a problem either [phonearena.com]

      • Some people go on foreign vacation for that long and don't use their phone.

        huh? I don't think I've ever seen anyone go on vacation without using their phone. WiFi, and local SIM cards are so incredibly prevalent that unless you're climbing Mt Everest you're probably likely to not only take your phone on vacation but likely use it too.

        errr. Nope I was wrong. Looks like using your phone on Mt Everest isn't a problem either [phonearena.com]

        It costs me $3 / minute to talk on my cell when I'm out of country. The question is if Google identifies a phone based on SIM information.

        • It costs me $3 / minute to talk on my cell when I'm out of country.

          It would cost you nothing to use WhatsApp at the local McDonalds in whatever country you're in. Or any other beat down restaurant.

          The question is if Google identifies a phone based on SIM information.

          The answer is no, it ties the device ID to your Google account. You can do whatever you want with the SIM including throw it away. The modern smartphone ties nothing to it, not even WhatsApp complains when you change your number despite needing one to sign up for the service.

          • It costs me $3 / minute to talk on my cell when I'm out of country.

            It would cost you nothing to use WhatsApp at the local McDonalds in whatever country you're in. Or any other beat down restaurant.

            What is this McDonalds you speak of? When I travel out of country I often find myself at least 100 miles away from the closest golden arches and most restaurants don't offer free wifi. I went 2 years without seeing a single McDonalds.

            The question is if Google identifies a phone based on SIM information.

            The answer is no, it ties the device ID to your Google account. You can do whatever you want with the SIM including throw it away. The modern smartphone ties nothing to it, not even WhatsApp complains when you change your number despite needing one to sign up for the service.

            My thoughts were more along the line if you could identify your phone via wifi or using a prepaid SIM.

            • What is this McDonalds you speak of? When I travel out of country I often find myself at least 100 miles away from the closest golden arches and most restaurants don't offer free wifi. I went 2 years without seeing a single McDonalds.

              Don't be daft, it was an example. I assume you go to places where you eat right? It doesn't need to be McDonalds (although that is almost universal). WiFi is available at nearly every little craphole village restaurant in the jungle these days. Short of trekking through the Amazon by foot it's actually difficult to find WiFi free places these days. Sure the very occasional personal will achieve that, usually taking a holiday specifically to get as far away from everything as possible, but in general the top

      • When I'm on vacation, I use my smart phone only where I have wifi.
        For phone calls I use a extremely cheap SIM on an ordinary no internet phone.

        • When I'm on vacation, I use my smart phone only where I have wifi.

          So you use your phone then, feel free to vacation for more than 2 months.

          • Yes, a simple phone with a SIM suited to the country.
            However since a few month in EU that is no longer necessary as the extra roaming charges got removed by law.

      • When you enter or leave most countries, they have the opportunity to take any phone or similar device and not return it for an unspecified amount of time. They are supposed to only do this for terrorism, but they routinely do it for other reasons.

        People that leave the country for months at a time often are highly suspect. They have the cool stamps on their passport which ups the interest of various governments.

        The easiest way to block this stupidity is to get a temporary phone for the duration. Forget ab

        • When you enter or leave most countries, they have the opportunity to take any phone or similar device and not return it for an unspecified amount of time. They are supposed to only do this for terrorism, but they routinely do it for other reasons.

          You really are living in a world of fear aren't you. Firstly "most countries" isn't even remotely true. Secondly the odds of it happening to you are right down there with the odds of getting hit with a terrorist attack. Even the overaggressive countries like the USA, China, and Russia process many 10s of thousands of people daily and the number who are held and have all their belongings taken can be counted on one hand the world over.

          If you're going to North Korea, possibly. If you're transiting Iran with a

    • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
      My kids get Ipads from the school. They hand them in at the end of the school year. every year their backups have been available in the icloud despite us using no other apple devices.
  • Why is it that every story that's posted here has already been on Reddit for at least a couple days?
    • by mean pun ( 717227 ) on Thursday September 14, 2017 @05:18PM (#55199031)

      Why is it that every story that's posted here has already been on Reddit for at least a couple days?

      Slashdot is only making backups of stories from other sites.

      • "Slashdot is only making backups of stories from other sites."

        But, if Slashdot doesn't publish the story again within two weeks, the story goes away.

    • by JohnFen ( 1641097 ) on Thursday September 14, 2017 @06:16PM (#55199405)

      For those of us who don't use Reddit?

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      Slashdot is copying Hacker News front page more than Reddit.

    • Why is it that every story that's posted here has already been on Reddit for at least a couple days?

      Because Slashdot is and always has been a news aggregator. The very principle on which it is based requires a story to be somewhere else first.

      • Reddit is the same way, just means this guy doesn't go out and look for his own news. If he did he would see it many hours or a day before it got to reddit's front page. If you go to wired, AP, twitter, etc you can be the first to post everywhere. I usually post an article on /. and reddit if I find it somewhere else and it has a nerd/tech interest.
  • by Jerrry ( 43027 ) on Thursday September 14, 2017 @05:16PM (#55199025)

    When did that policy go away? When financial pressures overrode ethics?

    • by sgage ( 109086 )

      Yes.

    • They were actually a bit open about that at the time; it was about 10 years ago. They had two main people who founded it; the "do no evil" stuff was the one who used to be in charge. Then he handed it all over to the other guy who was greedier, and the system switched to "normal corporate `ethics.'"

      • We shouldn't say his name, but were his initials Eric Schmidt?
        • I dunno, what sort of person would try to remember people who didn't do anything other than start a business and make money? Not me! We have local guys like that in my town, too, they're not really doing anything that has meaning to people not involved in their business or their family.

          I know who Bill Gates is because he wrote a version of BASIC and pushed spreadsheet technology forwards. He also killed some companies that made software I used to use.

          Whoever those google business people are, they don't real

    • It was all a confusion due to homophones. It was supposed to be "Do Know Evil".

  • I have an old Android tablet that I haven't used in about a year. I fired it up the other day and it told me to log into my gmail/google account again. Ok, done.

    Next I get an email from Google: You just activated a new device on your account.

    Really? It's a device that I had activated on my account before.

  • by ma1wrbu5tr ( 1066262 ) on Thursday September 14, 2017 @05:53PM (#55199269) Journal
    Backups will still be available via FOIA from the Dept. of Homeland Security.
    • by PJ6 ( 1151747 )

      Backups will still be available via FOIA from the Dept. of Homeland Security.

      Came here just to say that.

      There's no way they willingly delete any information. It's their currency.

    • Backups will still be available via FOIA from the Dept. of Homeland Security.

      Unfortunately your backup will only be available for CIA and NSA employees to peruse for dick pics. If you are not an employee of either of the above agencies, you'll never get to see your backup again!

    • Backups will still be available via FOIA from the Dept. of Homeland Security.

      From the very instant I first read, "Department of Homeland Security," I immediately thought it seemed astoundingly like, "3rd Reich." They have given ample evidence over the years to justify that gut reaction.

  • Ditto with Google off-line maps. 2 months is all you get, then your maps disappear from your phone. Really sucks when you're in the boonies for a couple of months and your map disappears.

  • PSA: Google Will Delete Your Android Backups If Your Device Is Inactive For Two Months

    Qhat does "PSA" stands for in this context?

  • Google actually deletes stuff? permanently deletes them? with an expiration date?

    This is GREAT! For once data are deleted as expected instead of being 'hidden' in the cloud for future ads tracking! (unlike FB)

    This is a moment for celebration!

    • data that can't possibly ever make them money will be deleted per schedule. Data about your private life, habits and preferences will be kept forever.

    • Unfortunately, you seem to be confused. The data that they mined from your backup will persist forever, but the useful bits that you needed to actually restore your phone are what get deleted...

  • Yet another reason to stop using Google in any form. I know it is difficult at first, but it gets easier with time. Google has demonstrated they are evil to a sociopathic degree over the last few years, and now that we all know, it is time to clone the good parts and cut the head off of the snake as it were. Let Google wither and die after treating their customers like shit and other businesses can feed off whatever is left. Without customers, Google just like any other business goes belly up.

  • by supernova87a ( 532540 ) <kepler1@hotmail.cGAUSSom minus math_god> on Thursday September 14, 2017 @10:14PM (#55200363)
    Say what you will about Apple and iPhone -- they don't pull this kind of shit with customers.
    • And why? You think this is some nefarious plot to screw the customer? More likely some dumb idea from some part of the company which didn't think it all the way through.

      Please do tell me about how you ignored all the times Apple has removed something without asking the customer. [apple.com]

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      Say what you will about Apple and iPhone -- they don't pull this kind of shit with customers.

      Pretty sure they'd have a time limit on their cloud services.

      It might last longer than 2 months (not sure what you expect from a free service, but the entitlement wankers have come out of the woodwork over this) but Apple shafts you in every other possible way.

  • I have a legitimate question: How does one back up Android, actually? (yes, I googled it, repeatedly, over a period of time)

    My experience so far barely backed up anything besides the list of apps I had installed. On iOS all my banking apps and Google Authenticator are ready to use after a restore. On Android I get that only if I root my device and actively copy the app's data myself. And it's not just banking apps. With few exceptions It's pretty much every app that I have to set up all over again.

    I had to

    • Titanium Backup.

    • by shess ( 31691 )

      I have a legitimate question: How does one back up Android, actually? (yes, I googled it, repeatedly, over a period of time)

      My experience so far barely backed up anything besides the list of apps I had installed. On iOS all my banking apps and Google Authenticator are ready to use after a restore. On Android I get that only if I root my device and actively copy the app's data myself. And it's not just banking apps. With few exceptions It's pretty much every app that I have to set up all over again.

      I had to reset my Nexus a while back because it had a database corruption that prevented Photos from displaying and backing up pictures, and the experience was as described above. Even with a Helium desktop backup.

      This. With an Apple device, I can 100% clone everything in an hour or so, depending on whether I already have a backup or not. With an Android device, I can replicate some of the stuff which is installed, but many games won't have their state (unless the developer made extra efforts), and I'll still be finding missing bits three weeks later.

      The first time I complained about this at work (Google) was when upgrading from my g1, and the answer I got was something like "Yeah, but the new release handles that"

  • Here's another gotcha: If you use google takeout to back up your google drive, your android backups are not included.

  • I've been battling Google over an Android app I coded in 2009 against the Android 1.5 API. I was getting nag messages for several months about the app no longer being in compliance with their latest standards. I had sold I set about unpublishing the app. The Android store continues to allow access to the app for any previously paying customers--no harm there. However, they would not let me complete the unpublish step because they tied their entire form to validation checks. So, I would have to provide a pri
    • At least with Google, using their app store is not mandatory for releasing and distributing an app.

  • Nobody will ever treat your own data as responsibly as you.

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