Google’s 600 Gigabyte Privacy Fiasco, by the Numbers

Google inadvertently collected about 600 gigabytes of personal data. Here’s what that amount means to you.


“We screwed up,” Google CEO Eric Schmidt said in June. “Let’s be very clear about that.”

Schmidt was referring to the “rogue data” controversy, a privacy fiasco that has embroiled the company everywhere from Germany to Spain to South Korea. Discovered several months ago after a third-party audit, between 2006 and 2010 Google’s Street View vehicles, the cars it used to capture images from the world’s major cities, had “accidentally” intercepted loads of personal data over unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Email addresses, Web sites, and other snippets of Internet activity–possibly even bank account information–were all accessible through these channels, which Google has blamed on a programming error.

Just how much did Google screw up?

In those four years, Google collected about 600 gigabytes of personal data from users in more than 30 countries–a heck of a lot of data to “inadvertently” collect because of a coding mishap.

So as German prosectors gear up for a policy fight with the Internet giant, we want to put that data into perspective to give you a sense of just how much our privacy has been violated. Here’s what 600 gigabytes of data means to you:

62 million… messages in your Gmail inbox


12.5 million… documents opened as attachments in Google Docs

1.9 million… search queries entered on Google

780,000… eBooks not available for purchase on Google Books

300,000… apps downloaded from the Android market

… photographs viewed and organized in Picasa

150,000… songs streamed over rumored Google Music


60,000… videos watched on YouTube

30,000… downloads of Google’s browser Chrome

25… hard drives of the Droid X

10… minutes it would take to download 600 gigabytes over Google Fiber

0… people using Google Wave–whoops, this doesn’t belong here!

Data based on approximations of 10kb email, 50kb document, 320kb search, 800kb ebook, 2mb app, 3mb photograph, 4mb mp3, 10mb video, 19.5mb Chrome, 24gb Droid X, 1 gigabit per second Fiber.


About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.