How a bug in Dropbox permanently deleted my 8000 photos

I started using Dropbox back in 2009 and have always loved the service. Over time, I kept moving more and more files to my Dropbox folder and eventually had to upgrade to the Pro plan to keep up with the space requirements. In particular, I moved there all of my photos in order to be able to view/share them on-line and also to have them backed up. In April of this year, a hard drive in my laptop was running low on space so I decided to use the Dropbox’s Selective Sync feature to unsync some large directories from the laptop. Because there was never any problem with the service and also because it’s already the year 2014, I thought it might be about time that one can trust a cloud-based storage service and use them as a sole backup of their files. Boy, I was wrong.

On 29th April 2014, I opened the Selective Sync dialog, unchecked directories called 2003, 2004, …, 2014 from the Photos folder (and few other directories) and clicked the ‘Update’ button. After that, the Dropbox client froze and didn’t show any sign of life for a couple of minutes, so I decided to kill it and restart it again. These directories are large and they might be too big of a bite for Dropbox, I thought, and unsynced them one by one instead. Everything worked well, the directories disappeared from the local hard drive, but they were still available on Dropbox’s website. All good.

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