Date
19 October 2018
A Reddit user put Amazon's cloud storage plan to test by uploading 1.8 petabytes (a petabyte is one million gigabytes) of pornography to the storage service. One would need 293 and a half years to watch the entire collection. Photo: Internet
A Reddit user put Amazon's cloud storage plan to test by uploading 1.8 petabytes (a petabyte is one million gigabytes) of pornography to the storage service. One would need 293 and a half years to watch the entire collection. Photo: Internet

How porn sparked an unlikely tech challenge

The tech world is awash with claims from companies about their level of engagement, user numbers and revenue, but most of these go unverified, particularly for companies that don’t generate revenue.

When a company says it has “X” number of users, or posits other grandiose marketing claims, don’t just be skeptical; try to test it out for yourself.

To steal a line from Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin West at the University of Washington who teach a course helpfully named “Calling Bullshit”: “Startup culture elevates bullshit to high art. Advertisers wink conspiratorially and invite us to join them in seeing through all the bullshit – and take advantage of our lowered guard to bombard us with bullshit of the second order.”

A story recently came to mind of a rather unusual verification process – using pornography as the means of proof. It all started when Amazon offered “unlimited” cloud storage to its users.

In March 2015, Amazon announced unlimited cloud storage with Amazon Cloud Drive, offering an “Unlimited Everything Plan” (for less than US$5 per month) to “store an infinite number of new and existing photos, videos, files, documents, movies, and music in Cloud Drive”.

“Most people have a lifetime of birthdays, vacations, holidays, and everyday moments stored across numerous devices. And, they don’t know how many gigabytes of storage they need to back all of them up,” said Josh Petersen, director of Amazon Cloud Drive.

Reddit user beaston08 put Amazon’s cloud storage plan to test in an unusual manner, uploading 1.8 petabytes (a petabyte is one million gigabytes) of pornography to the storage service. Of course, he didn’t do it manually, rather he developed a series of scripts to record public webcam shows and upload the data automatically.

Vice’s tech reporting site Motherboard considered how long it would take to watch this collection: “1.8 petabytes is about 23.4 years of HD-TV video, but webcam streams are nowhere near that quality. A few good folks crunched the numbers: 720p is about two gigabytes per hour, and at 900,000 hours, that’s 102 years of straight calendar time. If the videos are even lower quality, say, 480p, that’s around 0.7 gigabytes per hour, or 293 years and six months.”

Yes, that’s right, you would need 293 and a half years to watch the whole collection. And yes, Amazon stopped unlimited cloud storage for non-Prime members in June 2017. A victory for the small guy? Or did he just ruin it for everyone else?

The moral of the story is that in tech, take people’s claims with a pinch of salt and challenge them when applicable. In the era where tech companies like to see themselves as revolutionaries building a new data-driven “egalitarian” society, remember their likely motive is to make tons of cash – all from your pocket.

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RT/CG

EJI contributor

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