A significant outage with Google Cloud Services Sunday had widespread impacts that included right here on SFist — there were some scary moments there — but the most noticeable impacts for users were probably on Snapchat, YouTube, and Nest.
The outage occurred sometime just after noon Pacific Time, and Google would only say that "high levels of network congestion" on the East Coast were to blame. As the New York Times reports, the company has denied that any cyberattack occurred, but said it would "conduct an internal investigation of this issue and make appropriate improvements to our systems to help prevent or minimize future recurrence." The problem appeared to be fully resolved as of 4 p.m. PT, 7 p.m. ET.
As a result of the snafu, whatever it was, users of Nest smart-home devices, including smart locks and thermostats, found that they were unable to unlock doors or turn on their air conditioning, as Fast Company reports. The publication notes that such an outage "goes a long way to showing what can happen in an age when smart home technology requires always being connected to the cloud."
So we finally get AC, right? Great.— Danny (@jDantastic) June 2, 2019
Google is down. We have a Nest thermostat. Nest runs on Google. Can’t turn on AC because app is down.
Shopify, Discord, and Snapchat all reported issues as well, as did Google products YouTube and G Suite. Apple, as we learned last year, also runs some of its iCloud on Google Cloud.
Sunday's outage was followed by a separate outage on Monday for Google Fi, the company's phone service provider.
The lack of transparency around such outages, and the widespread nature of their potential impacts — including locking people out of their own homes and shutting their phones off — gives credence to the argument floated recently in the Harvard Business Review that big tech companies like Facebook and Google ought to be treated like utilities.
Given the market concentration exhibited by companies like Facebook and Google in their respective industry silos, one could suggest that these are pseudo-monopolistic firms that collect so much data and exploit so much of our attention in such invasive and questionable manners that they necessarily and systematically leave consumers in the lurch... these firms are two-sided platforms that have monopolized the consumer side; accordingly, they extract the end consumers’ currency on one side of the platform at extortionate monopoly rates, and exchange it for monetary revenue at tremendously high margins on the other side of the platform. It is this subtle but corrosive form of exploitation that policymakers should find most objectionable.
When a company actually controls all the wires and networks through which we communicate — and operate our air conditioning — one has to get a little anxious about the vulnerability of concentrating all that technology under one "cloud." Because when it rains, it pours.