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Pictures still automatically upload even if you delete Google Photos

Former Google Photos users are claiming their phones are still uploading to Google’s servers despite uninstalling the app in question.

Your data is precious and thankfully for most of us we have some level of control over what gets shared and where, which is especially important online, but what happens when we lose some of that control?

At Google’s I/O developer conference earlier this year, one of the big consumer-facing announcements was that Google Photos – the company’s photo gallery, image editor and cloud backup service for mobile devices and the web, was going to allow free unlimited uploads (images compressed to 16-megapixels and video uploads maxing out at 1080p HD).

On the surface this is great news and for many it’s the perfect solution to the ever-present issue of dwindling physical storage space on our computers and mobile devices. However, not everyone wants Google to have access to their snaps and videos, which is why this newly discovered quirk is a problem.

We call it a quirk, rather than a bug as it relates to how Android (iOS doesn’t operate in the same way, so users needn’t worry) handles data synchronisation with a user’s account. When you set up Google Photos cloud backup, it creates an option amidst the synchronisation settings under a user’s account settings.

As was discovered by David Arnott at the Nashville Business Journal (and subsequently verified by us), uninstalling Google Photos doesn’t halt subsequent snaps from making their way to the backup gallery in the cloud. It highlights the trouble of transparency from big companies like Google, even though they’ve technically done nothing wrong.

Thankfully the fix is simple:

  • Disable ‘backup & sync’ from within the Google Photos app settings menu or uninstall the app entirely.
  • Head into the settings menu of your Android smartphone and look for the Google account associated with your phone.
  • Under the sync settings for your chosen account look for ‘Sync Google Photos’ (this won’t appear if you’ve uninstalled the Google Photos app already) and ‘Sync Google Photos Backup’.
  • Toggle them both into the ‘off’ position and that’s it. You’re free of Google’s secret photo uploading.

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