back to article Uninstalled Google Photos? Thought your pics safe from slurping? WRONG, bozo

Uninstalling the Google Photos app from your Android device will not safeguard your pictures from being slurped up by Google, it turns out. Picture Nashville Business Journal journo David Arnott's horror upon discovering that the advertising giant had been collecting private photographs he had taken of his wife and daughter …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not turning off backup means that backup isn't turned off? *shock*

    1. PleebSmash

      tech wonder of Nashville

      Yup, this is a BS Google scare.

      1. Bloodbeastterror

        Re: tech wonder of Nashville

        "this is a BS Google scare"?

        Err... no. If I install Photos and switch on photo backup, I can reasonably expect that if I uninstall the app then I also uninstall the permission that I gave to back up my photos. To continue to upload my photos without proper notification or explicit permission is disgraceful.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: tech wonder of Nashville

          Err... no. If I install Photos and switch on photo backup, I can reasonably expect that if I uninstall the app then I also uninstall the permission that I gave to back up my photos

          Err, no. Let me repeat this again for good measure:

          When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps).

          As I have observed (many many times) before, Google has put considerable effort into avoiding the word "perpetuity", and if you look at the limiting conditions you will see that they are about as precise as a politician's election promises: not at all. But by using Google services (and this is one), you have agreed to this and have basically no legal leg to stand on, not to mention the fact that suing a US company with more money than God is not going to go well unless you turn it into a violation of law for which then the state will act, using your tax money.

          You don't even have TL:DR as an excuse because this bit of text appears quite early in the T&Cs (second chapter, if I recall correctly).

          You should have realised that it is never in Google's interest to limit its ability to have its grubby fingers deep into your personal life - that's how they make their money. All you could do is make them aware that they are now handling images of a child below the age of 13 without the permission of its parent and see if that can somehow be turned into a criminal case. I reckon the moment it would turn criminal law Google will suddenly become very apologetic and responsive and do a loot of "think of the children" stuff because you're not the only one with this problem.

          Apologies, my devious mind can't come up with anything more annoying for them - you dug the hole by trusting Google, and it's pretty much downhill from there. This is why I keep telling people to *bloody* read those terms, because most of them are close to scandalous in what you are supposed to give up for having something for "free".

          1. LDS Silver badge

            Re: tech wonder of Nashville

            That's valid only for what you've uploaded already, not for new contents you never intended to upload.

            1. Bloodbeastterror

              Re: tech wonder of Nashville

              "That's valid only for what you've uploaded already"

              Exactly. Yet it seems that quite a few people are finding that difficult to understand.

              I think Google would be hard pressed to justify uploading unapproved images, especially of children, regardless of how they try to spin the lawyerese.

              1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

                I'll be interested to see how Google will weasel itself out of that one in front of a judge.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: tech wonder of Nashville

            "Err... no. If I install Photos and switch on photo backup, I can reasonably expect that if I uninstall the app then I also uninstall the permission that I gave to back up my photos"

            And this is where the confusion lies. Photos isn't uploading your photos, Photos is a photo viewer. It's the Google Play Services application (that you probably can't uninstall), that is responsible for uploading your photos and it is in this application you need to disable it, not Photos.

            Settings > Accounts (and Sync) > Google Account > Untick 'Google Photos'

            Not saying your assumption that Photo's is doing the photo uploading is stupid/wrong/unexpected, just that's not how it works. Generally if it's a Google service that's syncing, it's done as part of the Play Services application.

            1. Bloodbeastterror

              Re: tech wonder of Nashville

              "Photos isn't uploading your photos"

              And this is *exactly* the sort of BS lawyerese that I mentioned in an earlier response.

              I gave permission via Photos. Very simple. I have no reason to expect that Photos sets a permission in another app or service behind my back which persists even after I uninstall Photos.

              Wrong - plain and simple wrong...

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: tech wonder of Nashville

                "And this is *exactly* the sort of BS lawyerese that I mentioned in an earlier response."

                That is not BS "lawyerese", it's an almost-technical explanation of how Android works and why what you were expecting to happen didn't. I'm not defending Google, simply stating how Android works.

                Whether you were aware of it or not, you used Photos to configure another application that remained on your device. While I agree with you that if the Photos application enabled sync, then Photos should disable it when uninstalled, but that isn't how Android works.

                Applications do not get told when they are being uninstalled so Photos had no opportunity to disable Photo sync when uninstalled. The best way it could be done is if the Play Services tracked what application enabled photo sync, monitoring for it's uninstall, then disable photo sync itself once the uninstall has completed.

                "I gave permission via Photos. Very simple. I have no reason to expect that Photos sets a permission in another app or service behind my back which persists even after I uninstall Photos."

                No, you don't which is why I said your assumption wasn't a stupid/unexpected one, if you don't know Play Services exists and what it does, you're not going to think Photos is using it.

                As with most Google "stuff" lately, the problem is end-user clarity and control of their data.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: tech wonder of Nashville

            I am always very fearful and cautious about these Almighty, Omnipotent bosses like Google, Facebook, etc. Although I am an unimportant private individual my privacy and cyber security are important to me. When I see Google+ on my devices I avoid it. When I see Google Photos appear on my computer screen I never click to use it. I store my photos and important documents in an external drive to protect them from hacking. Google Photos will back up those too? Why would I allow anyone to reach my external drive? Does Google still reach its dirty hand into my external drive without my permission? What should I do to prevent that?

        2. Rob Crawford

          Re: tech wonder of Nashville

          No because the backup service is actually a separate service that has been part of Android for at least 5 years.

          Google Photos is simply a method to manage the photos/archive.

          When I installed it I had to tell Photos to perform the backup and indeed whether to use WiFi or WiFi and mobile data services.

          Basically he enabled it and then cried that it was there, anybody else sense an attempt at financial redress for alleged distress

          1. druck Silver badge

            Re: tech wonder of Nashville

            I took the rear view mirror out of my car, but it would still go in to reverse - shock horror!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Backing up photos has always been a feature of Android before Google Photos came along. It backs up your device including settings, data, contacts, accounts, documents and some third party apps if they use the api.

    This allows you to move to a new phone and have all your information moved with it. It is very handy with many phones getting lost or damaged, you don't lose everything. I'm pretty sure every phone manufacturer must do this - it is after all an option it asks you if you want when you set up your phone. Say no and it won't do it.

    This is different from GooGle Photos though which is an unlimited photo storage system with storylines and categorization. If you delete the app these photos will still stay though as they are part of the Google Photos system available from anywhere. You need to delete the photos and turn off the service to get rid of those.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Backing up photos has always been a feature of Android before Google Photos came along. It backs up your device including settings, data, contacts, accounts, documents and some third party apps if they use the api."

      Really? How do I turn this off?

      On a Moto G running Android 5.0.2, if I go to Google Settings I see the following options:


      Account History



      Connected apps

      Data management

      Google Fit


      Play Games

      Search & Now


      SmartLock Passwords

      Entering each of these in turn I can't find anything about backing up photos.

      Under regular Settings > Accounts > Google > (Account Name) it says I can sync the following:

      [ ] App data

      [ ] Calendar

      [ ] Chrome

      [ ] Contacts

      [ ] Drive

      [ ] Gmail

      [ ] Google Fit data

      [ ] Google Play Books

      [ ] Google Play Movies & TV

      [ ] Google Play Music

      [ ] Google Play Newsstand

      [ ] Google+

      [ ] Google+ Uploads

      [ ] People details

      Again no mention of photos.

      So, if it *is* uploading all photos to the cloud, it's not exactly obvious that it is doing so.

      1. WonkoTheSane

        To turn OFF Google Photos sync, you must first turn Google Photos ON.

        Then, tap the menu icon, then settings.

        THEN you can turn Backup & Sync off.

        Note also that geo-location of pics defaults to ON.

        1. JP19

          " you must first turn Google Photos ON"

          I see a user account option under sync called "Google Photos Backup". That option wasn't there before installing Google Photos and is left and left on after de-installing Google Photos.

          That is what the guy is complaining about but why the fuck would you expect anything different from google?

    2. Lamont Cranston

      The way I read it

      was that he'd been taking photos using the Google Photos app, which was automatically saving them to Google's cloud, which was as he expected, but then he uninstalled the Google Photos app and assumed that this would take the cloud backup element of the app with it. Which it didn't, and so photos taken with a different app (maybe the stock Android app, maybe whatever Samsung had foisted upon him) were still being backed up by the remnant of the Google Photos app.

      I've never used the Google Photos app, although it is installed on my Moto G (just seen the pinwheel icon in the app tray), but a check of the Google Settings shows no entry for Google Photos, so I'll (naïvely) assume it's not slurping my pics. I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that if you go to the bother of uninstalling an app, it uninstalls completely?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The way I read it

        ...were still being backed up by the remnant of the Google Photos app.

        NO. That's the misunderstanding - Its the _independent_ Android Backup service which is doing the backup as its been told to, NOT the Google Photos app. The flaw is that uninstalling the Google Photos app doesn't tell the Android Backup service to stop backing up photos ... which is why you have to do this yourself in the google settings if you've removed the photos app from the device.

        Don't think this is malicious. Its a classic flaw with 'componentised' (is there such a word??) services.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: The way I read it

          Photo backup doesn't exist until the Photo app installs it. It should be removed when the photo app is uninstalled or if that cant be done photo backup should uninstall itself when it detects that the app has been removed.

          1. heyrick Silver badge

            Re: The way I read it

            Photo backup does exist. I don't have Google Photos.

            Settings - Accounts - Google - Google+ - Auto backup

            It's in there. At least, on my phone it is.

            First thing I do is turn that crap off. I got stung years ago when my phone helpfully shared my WiFi key "by default". Now I disable all the auto backup stuff during the journey from the phone shop to home...

    3. JP19

      "This allows you to move to a new phone and have all your information moved with it"

      Which requires you to give all your information (including WiFi passwords) unencrypted to google, which frankly also requires you to be a moron. That google doesn't even offer the option of encryption for this information shows their complete disregard for users privacy and security.

      The guy signing up for any google online service and then moaning about them sucking photos from his device when he didn't think they would makes me laugh.

    4. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Backing up photos has never been a feature of standard Android. Backup & Sync backed up PIM data, some first party app data, and some device settings, but not media files dropped into internal memory/the SD card.

      Photo backup was originally part of Google+ photos app. If installing the photo app modifies the backup process so that media files are backed up, it would be reasonable to assume that uninstalling it removes the modification. Instead it appears that that the modification stays there and the backup settings stay in Google Settings after the photo app is uninstalled.

      I don't know how integrated the photos app is in the system but if it autoruns on device startup or you ran it once and kept hitting next to make it go away, and the backup setting defaults to on, then in all probability you're uploading them all to the mothership.

    5. strum

      >Backing up photos has always been a feature of Android before Google Photos came along.

      That's irrelevant to a current user. Why should he need to know the history?

  3. Dazed and Confused


    If Google are slurping down kids sexting pictures does that make them guilty of distributing child porn?

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: So

      No, the person taking the picture has been volunteered for that crime.

    2. BillG

      Re: So

      If Google are slurping down kids sexting pictures does that make them guilty of distributing child porn?

      Technically, yes.

      Years ago I used to do computer repair. I once asked my lawyer what I should do if I ever found child porn. His officially answer was that a computer repair person should report it to police. But off the record he told me the repair person should delete it then do a wipe of free space because, technically, the repair person would be in possession of kiddie porn.

      It's like trying to pass off money you don't know is counterfeit - you're still guilty.

      1. Argh

        Re: So

        If you find it, report it, please, don't just delete it.

        Saying you're guilty for repairing a PC containing illegal media is like saying that if you work at a till, then receive money, check it immediately and find it to be counterfeit, you're still guilty for being in possession of it.

        The guy who found porn on Gary Glitter's laptop in PC World reported it and there was no legal action taken against him, of course.

        1. BillG

          Re: So

          If you find it, report it, please, don't just delete it.

          In theory, yes, but in practice it depends on the police officer investigating, the DA, etc. Also, what if the customer claims you planted the files there because you're such a computer expert?

          Believe me, I would want to do the right thing, I really really would, but there's no protection for the technician. Even an unjust accusation by the perv customer can ruin your life. And it doesn't change the fact that, by the letter of the law, the technician is guilty (possession = guilt) and can be prosecuted. The solution is the law needs to be changed to protect the technician.

  4. Mr Dogshit

    There's a surprise

    If you lie down with dogs, you get puppies.

  5. Kraggy

    Just another clueless user blaming others for his ignorance.

    Seems perfectly reasonable to me that photos I've taken before uninstalling an app are still being backed-up if I'd set that option in the past.

    1. Bloodbeastterror

      "Just another clueless user blaming others for his ignorance"

      Again, err... no.

      Maybe I'm misunderstanding your message. If the photos he took before uninstalling the app continue to be backed up, then that's with his permission. If new photos continue to be uploaded *after* he's uninstalled the app, then they are being uploaded without his permission. As far as I'm concerned the uninstalling of an app is my withdrawal of permissions for that app and its functionality.

      You can look down from the back of your high horse and say "He should have known", but I've been using Android for 4 years and *I* didn't know. Does that make me ignorant too? (I'm guessing that you're using the word in a pejorative sense).

    2. Triggerfish

      Umm no, if I unistall software then I expect it to stop doing what it does, not leave little bits hidden and still working.

      What would be the definition of software on a PC or server that if you unistalled it still left sub processes/ programs doing their own thing hidden in the background?

      1. Mystic Megabyte


        Would that be like the Chrome browser setting which by default is "Continue running processes in the background when Chrome is stopped"? This is on the Linux version which is now uninstalled so I cannot quote it exactly.

        1. Triggerfish

          Re: @Triggerfish

          No I would have thought its more like, continue running Chrome processes when its been unistalled to be honest.

  6. ratfox

    Photos are special; they do not belong to a single app

    I remember there used to be two applications for looking at your pictures, the stock Android one and the Google one. In fact, I believe that Samsung phones carry an additional app built by Samsung.

    So this user seemed to think that deleting the app would delete all pictures taken with the app. Not so, since multiple apps can access the pictures…

    Admittedly, it's a bit confusing. For most apps, deleting the app removes all data associated with the app.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: Photos are special; they do not belong to a single app

      I think you need to re-read the article.

  7. chivo243 Silver badge

    Picasa anyone?

    Same shit different app... When it came out years ago, I read just enough of the Eula to see what was goin on, and advised friends, family and co-workers to avoid it like the plague.

    Looks like our lucky contestant did not read enough before clicking next...

    1. Planty Bronze badge

      Re: Picasa anyone?

      Most of my friends are grateful of a free picture backup service, as they have all lost data on the past.

      Good job none of them talk to tinfoil hat wearing googlephobes

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Not sure on Android....

    ..(as my work one is shit).

    But with Winphone, it makes no difference what App you take the photo with as it syncs the Photo folder (camera roll & saved photos). But it's pretty easy to turn off.

    This sort of sounds similar, but a lot more clunky to do (no change there).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not sure on Android....

      But I don't think MS are in the habit of using facial recognition on your Onedrive contents. Yet.

    2. Mike Taylor

      Re: Not sure on Android....

      Settings > Back-up > Turn photos off, could hardly be easier on WP!

      1. sabroni Silver badge

        Re: could hardly be easier on WP

        Well they could make it so the option is always there, rather than it appearing after you've enabled it in an app. Or they could take you to the settings screen to switch it on, thereby informing you of where it is.

        Both of those would make it clearer, if not easier...

  9. Test Man

    Not sure what's hard to understand.

    The option for photo backing up is a part of Google Settings, it's not a part of Google Photos. It's always has been since they decoupled Google Photos from Google+.

    What Google should do is simply remove the option from Google Photos, or design the UX so that it explicitly takes the user to the settings in Google Settings.

  10. T_o_u_f_ma_n

    Google like Farcebook succeed at being so opaque about what they do with one's data that users eventually give up trying to rationalise their behaviour. Google Photos which I have not installed on my Android phone now shows as a separate app from my Google+ account (which I hardly use) and contain *some* pictures called "moments" grouped in "collections" which I have NEVER asked for. There is no option to disable these "collections" apart from going through each and everyone of them to delete them. Honestly Google PFO.

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. Herbert Fruchtl


    As a system administrator, I am somewhat surprised that the word seems to have changed meaning since I last used it. Didn't know it now means "upload for perusal". I'll quickly have a rifle through my users' backups for something saucy, or of interest to the competition. If I find it, I will use it for targeted advertising. "My silence. This week only! £1 Gazillion".

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Yeah, but YOU are nothing. An individual. A twig on the ground. You will be nailed for blackmail before you can blink and subsequently destroyed without a thought.

      Google, on the other hand, is a multinational multibillion-dollar corporation employing tens of thousands of people, virtually controlling Internet search, practically IS the Internet, and oh, yes, influencing lawmakers with mucho dollars (with or without the brown envelopes ? Do they come with suitcases now ?).

      Thus their actions are without consequence (except maybe for a piddling fine).

  13. Mark 85 Silver badge


    So we tech types now know... but what about the average user? Anyone tell them? Do they (average user) even care? There's been an awful lot of this type of crap lately where "we" know, but "user" doesn't. Think Flash.. does the average user know or care that it has, shall we say "issues"?

    1. sandman

      Re: Nice...

      Good point. It's all right for us la di da techie types to pontificate but the majority of users will just install an app, find out they don't want it any more and then (perhaps) uninstall it. They won't expect parts of it to continue working or the last permissions set to carry on regardless via another app.

  14. Mark Simon

    Guys, this is Google

    They take your stuff, they spy on you. Nuff said.

  15. Medixstiff

    I never even downloaded or installed the app

    Yet on my Galaxy S3 under Sync settings Google+, everything was ticked, including GoogleFit Data, Play Books, Google+ Photos, Google+ Uploads, People details and Picassa web albums, so I suspect this has been going on for quite a while

  16. Steve McGuinness

    Any tips on how to uninstall Google Photo's on an S4?

    Since cunningly, its not even listed as an installed app when you try and remove applications from your system. Thats genius!

    1. Simon Cresswell

      On Lollipop (unlocked phone)

      You can but it takes Google + with it.

      Press and hold the photos icon - this will bring up the options at the top of the screen - drag the icon to "disable" - usual reset to factory confirmation - and poof, it's gone.

      At least that's what it tells me...

      Though wether it will try to download itself again in time remains to be seen...

  17. Daggerchild Silver badge

    Genuine question

    What does an iPhone do for their equivalent?

    1. patrick_bateman

      Re: Genuine question

      It doesn't ever let you know its doing something you wouldn't want it too.

      If you wanted to do it, 'its just apple, it just works'

    2. khurtwilliams

      Re: Genuine question

      There is not equivalent on iOS. The Photos app on iOS is your camera roll. You give it permissions to backup via the iCloud section of the Settings app. To stop is from backing up your images you go back to iCloud section and turn it off.

  18. patrick_bateman

    I get scared when reading these articles,

    Someone writing for an IT website cant understand this basic thing.

    you know the phone was backing up the pictures before you installed the app , unless you specified it not too

    you know everything you type into your google phone is collected by google anyway

    you know everything you do, when you do it, where you do it, what you just did last... its all logged and sent back to google.

    be surprised about nothing in the IT world.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I am new to the Android system, I use Google Photos, and I use the back up system, it's useful, as some have mention if you loose your phone or for whatever reason those photos will always be accessible,

    Am I naive not sure, I just find the app very useful

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: Am I naive?

      Yup. Just the kind of "user" that Google loves. They make something slightly more convenient and take control of your stuff at the same time. You think it's a service to you. You are naive.

      1. Pookietoo

        Re: re: Am I naive?

        Some people are just less concerned about privacy. They think the trade-off is worth the benefits. I don't mind Tesco knowing what I buy, in return they give me vouchers for stuff I like and a discount on petrol. I'm a bit wary of quite how much Google wants to know about me, I only tell them some of it, so I don't benefit from all their magic.

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