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Everyone Is Using Google Photos Wrong

Wired: “Every year, more than a billion people use the Google Photos app to upload and store billions of pictures and videos. For many, the process is likely identical: You snap some photos with your phone and they’re automatically uploaded to Google’s cloud service. You might pick the best photo and share it on WhatsApp or Instagram and then never think about the rest of them ever again. The photos join a constantly updating stream of data about life. But it shouldn’t be this way. Uploading thousands of photos and never taking any steps to sort or manage them creates a series of privacy risks and is making it impossible to maintain your photo collection in the future. Now is the time to stop being an information hoarder, before it spirals out of control. For the past six weeks, I’ve spent around a dozen hours deleting thousands of photos that had been uploaded to my Google Photos account in the last half-decade. In total, I erased 16,774 photos and videos. During the process—and thousands of “delete” taps—three things stood out: My photos collection unknowingly includes a lot of sensitive personal information (both about me and others); I don’t need to keep so many photos; and wrestling my collection into shape frees up a lot of space in my Google account…But beneath the surface, there were plenty of images that should never have been kept in the first place. For years, I had been keeping photos of passports—my own and those of friends who had sent me the details for booking trips. I found photos of the details needed to log in to my bank account. I was storing people’s addresses and screenshots of directions to their homes. The list goes on: private email addresses, NSFW photos, screenshots of embarrassing conversations, common running routes and travel directions, pictures of notebooks from sensitive meetings. Huge swaths of my life were stored in my photos. I didn’t know they were there or had forgotten about them as soon as they weren’t useful.

Each of these presents a risk. While Google makes the vast majority of its profits from advertising—its privacy policy says it won’t show you personalized ads based on your photos—the company has a strong data security record. Successful hacks against the company are incredibly rare. However, each piece of data that you’re unnecessarily storing adds a little extra hazard if something does go wrong. Documents could be used to assist with identity theft, while other personal details could contribute to building up a picture of who you talk to, where you live, and the places you frequent. Aside from any potential data breaches, my photos could potentially be accessed if my phone is lost or stolen. (These issues aren’t unique to Google Photos; they equally apply to any online photo storage service.)..”

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