May 25, 2020 | Updated: 10:04 PM EDT

Google Photos’ Glitch: It Syncs Your Photos To The Web Even After You Uninstall It

Jul 14, 2015 11:12 PM EDT


If you don’t want Google Photos to automatically upload your personal pictures, you better turn off "Google Photo Backup" in your mobile device, now.

Business Journal Assistant News Editor David A. Arnott discovered a chilling quirk for the Google app: Even after he deleted the app, he found photos he took AFTER deleting the app, all uploaded online. In short, Google Photos persisted in uploading and syncing the image files even though it was no longer on the device.

Some users may not even bat an eyelash with this security vulnerability, but for those who are concerned about what the apps they install can do, this is a major security concern.

To know that even after you uninstall an app, it keeps uploading your data to the Internet, without your knowledge, without your permission, is an undeniable breach of privacy.

So as an end-user, how do you protect yourself and your data?

• Always be aware of whatever permissions you allow your apps to access. If in doubt, don’t download, install, or use the app.

• Check via Google Settings > Google Photos Backup, and see if the button is set to “Off.” If it’s set to “On,” you may want to turn it off.

• After uninstalling Google Photos, check the Google Photos Backup settings and see if the backup function is set to “Off.” This is the only way you’ll be able to avoid a replication of David Arnott’s experience.

• Don’t install Google Photos just yet, until you hear of Google rolling out a fix for this bug.

While Google representatives have released a statement that this is exactly how they’ve intended Google Photos to work, which is to sync in the background, most smartphone users expect that uninstalling an app will cause it to cease its functions altogether. And this is a basic, expected, practically universal function that Google has failed to work into its app.

So whenever you uninstall Google apps, remember to check the Google Settings app for settings that you may need to tweak. Remember that unlike other apps, Google’s settings are centralized.

Fortunately, the news has now reached Google, and they are promising a fix to the app’s behavior.

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