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Is Google Photos storing your pictures without your knowledge?

Google Photos backs up users' pictures automatically, and continues to do so after the app is deleted unless users manually change the settings.

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    This Thursday, April 12, 2012 file photo shows a Google logo at the company's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. A Nashville Business Journal editor recently brought attention to Google Photos' policy of storing and uploading users' photos even after the app has been deleted from devices.
    Paul Sakuma/AP/File
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Google Photos automatically backs up and uploads photos from your Android phone – even after you delete the app.

Nashville Business Journal’s David Arnott wrote Friday that after deleting the app and downloading it again five weeks later, he found Google Photos had stored the “hundreds” of pictures he had taken in the interim, while the app was no longer on his phone, and had posted them to its website.

A Google blog post says photos are “automatically backed up and synced, so you can have peace of mind that your photos are safe,” but does not mention that to stop Google from backing up photos, users have to do more than uninstall the app.

After reaching out to Google, Arnott said he received an email from a representative saying “The backup was as intended.” He said he was told if users wanted to stop Google from automatically backing up photos, regardless of if the app has been uninstalled, they must change their settings in Google Play Services.

“A reasonable person would expect none of my photos to ever end up on Google’s web site unless I somehow uploaded them another way,” Arnott wrote.

He added, “How many people have been photographed and now subjected to Google’s recognition technology without the photographer’s knowledge?”

Although it appeared that the Google backup had not made the recovered photos publicly visible, Arnott said he was “uncomfortable” that Google had been able to obtain them at all.

“Keeping an app functional even after it’s been ‘uninstalled’ is deception,” he wrote.

Google released a statement to TechCrunch saying it was “working to make the messaging clearer as well as provide users who uninstall the Photos app an easy way to also disable backup.”

For users who have deleted the app from their Android phones and want to turn off the automatic backup service, the Google statement said to “go to Google Settings, select Google Photos backup and toggle the switch at the top to ‘off.’”

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