Automatic photo upload apps have freed us from a cumbersome world of USB cables and memory cards, and generally speaking it’s great to have your pictures sent to the Web automatically. Sometimes, however, it’s not so great.
Even if you’re not a celebrity with nude pictures to hide, you might not want all of your snaps duplicated over dozens of platforms. Here’s how to do a check-up on where your photos are going automatically and block off any services you don’t want to use.
Android and iOS
Both Android and iOS have their own auto-upload features that you may have activated when you first set up your devices. In Android, Google+ does the heavy lifting (though there are rumours Google Photos will soon be a standalone service). To check if this feature is active, head into the Google Photos app and open the Settings option from the menu. Tap Auto-Backup to take stock of what’s being backed up and change the settings if required (you can opt to exclude local folders for example).
It’s simpler on iOS, where you can find the auto-backup option on the iCloud page of Settings. Tap Photos then disable the My Photo Stream and Photo Sharing options if you don’t want your images disappearing into the ether without your say-so.
It’s worth emphasising that these backup services keep photos private by default, but again you might want to take more control over which files make it off your device, private or not.
There are plenty of third-party apps that will gladly upload snaps on your behalf, and on iOS you can quickly get a look at them by opening up the Settings app, choosing Privacy and then Photos. The apps listed here can all access your Photo Stream, though they won’t necessarily be uploading anything. Head into the apps themselves to check, or simply revoke access to make sure they aren’t sending your pictures back to a server on the Web. Google+ may well be listed here, if you’ve installed it on iOS.
As for Android, you’ll need to go through your apps one-by-one and check any auto-backup settings you can find. Dropbox is a good example — its backup routine works very smoothly, but if you want to turn it off the relevant section is Camera Upload on the Settings page. Facebook is another app that may be beaming your pictures back to base, so choose App Settings from the main menu and check the status of the Sync Photos option.
Then there’s OneDrive, Box, Amazon Cloud Drive, SugarSync; all these apps might have auto-upload features turned on, so do a careful audit of the cloud storage tools you have installed. Social networking and life-logging apps are also likely to be squirrelling your pictures away somewhere, so check through those as well while you’re at it.
None of this is particularly difficult or technical but we’d encourage you to run a quick assessment to see which apps are uploading your images, to where, and why. Automatic photo uploads are not bad — they’re incredibly helpful when you drop your phone in a lake, for example — but it’s important to be aware of where your pictures are going and how they are protected.