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Google Photos temporarily disabled on Android TV

The move is in response to a privacy bug reported by two Android TV users.

Published onMarch 4, 2019

The Google Photos app icon.
  • In response to a bug reported on Twitter, Google has disabled Google Photos integration on Android TV.
  • The bug showed users a long list of connected Google accounts, complete with profile pictures.
  • Fortunately, the private photos of these users were not available, but it’s still pretty scary.

One of the perks of owning a device running Android TV is how easily you can integrate Google services into it. One of those services, though, is not going to work for you for the time being. That service is Google Photos, and the reason it was disabled is quite creepy (via Android Police).

A Twitter user going by the handle Prashanth was trying to integrate his Google Photos account into his 55-inch Vu LED TV, which is powered by Android TV. While he was going through the setup process, he noticed something very strange: Android TV presented him with a list of available Google accounts which was filled with users he didn’t know, complete with profile photos.

When I access my Vu Android TV through the @Google Home app, and check the linked accounts, it basically lists what I imagine is every single person who owns this television. This is shocking incompetence.
— prashanth (@wothadei) March 3, 2019

It seemed at that point, that he could have selected any one of those accounts. However, when he selected an account, nothing happened, as the integration itself didn’t seem to be working.

He then tried to do the whole process over again, this time with his wife’s Google account. Sure enough, that strange list of many Google users showed up.

Curious, he then grabbed his Xiaomi Mi Box 3 — a standalone media streamer, also powered by Android TV — and tried to duplicate the issue. The setup process went as expected, though, with only his own Google accounts showing up as available.

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Prashanth documented a lot of the ordeal on Twitter, tagging Google. Regrettably, Google told him to contact the television’s manufacturer instead, which is a strange response considering this clearly is an issue with Google accounts and Android TV, not a TV manufacturer.

However, the plot then thickened when another Twitter user going by the handle Aarjith chimed in and described the same problem happening on an Android TV-powered television from TCL subsidiary iFFalcon.

We’re not sure if that second user is what changed Google’s mind, or its own behind-the-scenes research, but the company then disabled Google Photos integration with Android TV.

While no harm was done by this bug that we know of, it does seem like something could have gone very, very wrong if it were left unchecked. Prashanth wasn’t able to see any of the private photos of those hundreds of Google users, but what if he had been able to? Scary stuff.

We will update this article as soon as Google takes reins on the issue and gets Google Photos integration back up and running in Android TV.

NEXT: Google reportedly working on minimum requirements for Android TV

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