Google sees macOS system files as copyright infringement

Google’s storage service, Drive, has a filtering problem for the umpteenth time. This time, it is harmless metadata generated for decades by Apple computers equipped with the macOS operating system that is concerned. As reported by affected users, the so-called “.DS_Store” files are suddenly flagged as files that supposedly constitute copyright infringement. Currently, it’s unknown how often the issue occurs – however, there are a number of reports on Twitter and Reddit.

The case recalls a similar problem that occurred earlier this year, when text files were marked with simple numbers. This was even weirder than the current “.DS_Store” problem, because metafiles can at least reference potentially problematic files. However, they don’t in practice, because Google Drive doesn’t claim that files in the directory with “.DS_Store” are a copyright issue – only “.DS_Store” itself.

Files are automatically hidden on the Mac and contain file attributes, including information about possible folder background images, icon positioning in Finder, and Spotlight comments. The data they contain can pose a problem in terms of data protection, which is why it can be a good idea to delete them when writing, for example, to network volumes that are also used by Windows computers. On non-Mac computers, they additionally appear as visible files, while on Mac, they must be displayed first.

Google currently doesn’t yet know why metafiles trigger copyright warnings (“Your file violates Google Drive’s terms and conditions”). Towards BleepingComputer it was only said that it could be an “edge case”. Such problems have already been resolved in January. However, one of the cases that occurred was only a few days old.

Hash collisions are a possible explanation – so the “.DS_Store” file has the hash of a known file that violates Google policy. However, such cases are very rare. The problem for those affected is that Google gives them no opportunity to complain. So far, the group has not scheduled a verification. What is only annoying at first can lead to account suspension if the problem repeats. Again, it should be extremely difficult to get an unlock – despite the complete innocence of the user.

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