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IFTTT on iOS used 7.5GB of cellular data
May 9, 2014 1:49 PM   Subscribe

I just received a huge cellphone bill due to excessive data usage. I checked my iPhone's cellular data usage, and the IFTTT app has used 7.5GB (yes, gigabytes) of data in the last month. WTF!

I only have two recipes active; one that sends a daily weather forecast and another that uploads iPhone screenshots to Dropbox.

My activity log shows no uploads at all, and the target folder on Dropbox doesn't even exist. IFTTT Twitter support replied with:

"Apologies about the confusion, active iOS Photos Recipes (even screenshot-based ones) upload all new photos taken on your device."

Which doesn't make sense. How on earth is this possible? I'm now out $200. Thanks, IFTTT!
posted by krunk to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
That's terrible coding on their part, but I'd be quite surprised if you have any way to get them to pay for the bill their screwup stuck you with. It's worth yelling your way up the support chain, though.

Have you actually taken 7.5GB of pictures over the last month, though? If this is uploading your pictures multiple times, that's another thing you can legitimately complain about.

(And obviously uninstall this POS app)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:01 PM on May 9 [3 favorites]


I've been an IFTTT user since the site was beta, I really like it...

BUT

The IFTTT app is really not ready for production, at this point consider it a loaded gun and handle accordingly.
posted by Cosine at 2:13 PM on May 9


As far as "How on earth is this possible", just a guess - one thing I've seen that can accidentally consume enormous amounts of bandwidth is when I set up a virtual filesystem for cloud storage with a piece of open source software, which resulted in lots of mundane filesystem reads going over the network every time some script or daemon grabbed a directory listing. That amounted to less than a GB per month, though, but maybe they've done something like that while simultaneously leaving verbose error messaging turned on somewhere.
posted by XMLicious at 2:19 PM on May 9


I had a similar issue - IFTTT used 1.3GB of cellular data for no apparent reason, I filed a bug etc etc. Turns out that the recipe I had that put iPhone screenshots into a "Screenshots" folder required that they upload every single photo to their servers.

That being said, I am not sure exactly what question you are asking here. Is this a software question? Are you trying to get your money back?
posted by misterbrandt at 2:30 PM on May 9


What exactly is your question?

Clearly it is possible for an app to use that much bandwidth.

Equally clearly it's not good for an app to do so.

Do you have another question?
posted by alms at 2:31 PM on May 9


I think the question is that if "the activity log shows no uploads at all, and the target folder on Dropbox doesn't even exist", then how has IFTTT used 7gigs of data? If there was a Dropbox folder with 7gig of screenshots in, it would be obvious, but there isn't, so what was the data used for?

As for an answer, maybe what the explanation means:
"active iOS Photos Recipes (even screenshot-based ones) upload all new photos taken on your device."
is that iOS Photos recipes upload all photos taken on the iPhone to the IFTTT servers, then once on their servers it copies them to Dropbox or not, based on the recipe. In other words, the way the app works is it doesn't apply the rules of the recipe (Screenshot? If Yes then put on DB) until the file has been uploaded to IFTTT's own server.

Based on that, maybe the recipe has been uploading every single photo you've taken (all 7.5gig of them), but since you haven't taken any screenshots(?), none of the files matched the recipe and so the activity log is empty (because the recipe wasn't activated) and the Dropbox folder is empty (because none of the files were a screenshot).

I don't know all that much about how IFTTT works but that's my theory...
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:09 PM on May 9 [2 favorites]


I suspect dropbox, but I suspect it was syncing and re-synching the same pictures over and over. Dropbox can be a bandwidth hog if you let it; by default on mobile devices it only syncs an index, and lets the user demand individual files from dropbox. It sounds like somehow it was requesting the files, or else uploading the same files over and over.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:12 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


Ah, sorry for the lack of clarity in my question. I'm slightly rage-fuelled.

EndsOfInvention is correct; my question is "how did I use 7.5GB of data if no pictures were transferred?"

My sub-question is "How can I get IFTTT to acknowledge this is a problem?" as their support email just uses an auto-responder and Twitter isn't responsive to me.

It's either a bug with IFTTT or a bug with Dropbox. My IFTTT logs show no photo transfer activity, and there's nothing in my Dropbox.

- I don't think photos go to IFTTT's server first, since it uses the Dropbox API.
- I've taken *maybe* 10 screenshots in the last month.
- I have 10.6GB of photos on my iPhone, so it didn't upload all of them. Only ~50 have been taken in the last month.

If it's a bug with IFTTT I'd like them to know about it and stop this happening for others in the future. Of course I'd like them to pay for my data overage but that's never going to happen.
posted by krunk at 3:41 PM on May 9


For reference, here is the response I eventually got from IFTTT after asking if my 1.3GB of cellular data usage was the result of a bug:
Thanks again for your patience. Your iOS Photos Recipes are the culprits here. The IFTTT app uploads each photo then filters front/back/screenshot/etc. from there, which is likely where your cellular data usage is coming from

I hope that clears things up. If you have any further questions, please let me know.
So in their mind, it is not a bug. Everything goes through their servers.

I ended up just turning off cellular data for the IFTTT app, and being irritated by the whole situation. thankfully I stayed below my data limits though...
posted by misterbrandt at 3:47 PM on May 9


Yeah that's kind of a bug and kind of just a really terrible way to implement a feature. Imagine if using Search on Windows to find all .jpg files involved sending the entire contents of your hard drive to Microsoft so they could send you back a list of the matching files.

I would publicise this on Twitter/social media. Find people who are using iOS Photos apps and let them know that IFTTT are a) using massive amounts of bandwidth, and b) uploading all their photos which seems like a massive invasion of privacy.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:03 PM on May 9 [4 favorites]


I would publicise this on Twitter/social media. Find people who are using iOS Photos apps and let them know that IFTTT are a) using massive amounts of bandwidth, and b) uploading all their photos which seems like a massive invasion of privacy.
Yep, this. In addition leave a one-star review in the app store and post a comment to their FB page. You may find there are others out there with the same issue and seeing your review/comment may prompt them to agree/post their own review. If enough people complain publicly about a problem there's a better chance it will be addressed by the company.
posted by moxiequz at 5:01 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


[One comment deleted; please don't use the thread as a way to signal-boost the complaint. Other followup is fine. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:24 PM on May 9


Sorry LobsterMitten, didn't realize that was a no-no. (I linked to my complaint tweet)

IFTTT support is following up, I'll let you know what they say.
posted by krunk at 6:01 PM on May 9


Quick follow up: IFTTT got back to me and very generously offered to pay for my data overage.

They're looking into the problem and will try to warn users about data usage and photo uploading.

Thanks for the help!
posted by krunk at 8:16 PM on May 9 [6 favorites]


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