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Google Photos Uploading Your Pics, Even If You Don't Want It To 217

New submitter Adekyn writes that, according to David A. Arnott of The Business Journals, the Google Photos app will sync your photos — even after you have deleted the application from your device. From the article: All I had to do to turn my phone into a stealth Google Photos uploader was to turn on the backup sync, then uninstall the app. Whereas one might reasonably believe uninstalling the app from the phone would stop photos from uploading automatically to Google Photos, the device still does it even in the app’s absence. Since making this discovery, I have re-created the issue multiple times in multiple settings on my Galaxy S5. I reached out to Google, and after reaching someone on the phone and describing the issue, was told to wait for a comment. Several hours later, I received a terse email that said, “The backup was as intended.” If I want to stop it from happening, I was told I'd have to change settings in Google Play Services. A video of the process accompanies the article.
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Google Photos Uploading Your Pics, Even If You Don't Want It To

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  • I discovered something astounding. I used a remote control to turn the TV on. Then I accidentally stepped on the remote and destroyed it completely. But the TV was still on. I did not understand why the TV was on even after I destroyed the remote. Called their tech support, they said if I wanted the TV to go off, I have to walk all the way to the TV and press on a designated location with some cryptic icon which they called a "switch". Not swipe, not single or double tap, press with a finger and let go, acc
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 11, 2015 @07:40AM (#50087887)

      Except that in your little analogy, uninstalling the app should correspond to taking the TV away. As a customer, that was my intent when I removed the app. Anything else is sneaky and borderline (?) malicious.

      • Except that in your little analogy, uninstalling the app should correspond to taking the TV away. [...]

        Huh? Where did 140Mandak262Jamuna say "I stepped on the TV""?

        No wonder you see bogeymen when you uninstall and app that initiated a backup. Obviously Google needs to update the documentation so that it's clearer to "users" that they need to disable the automatic backup before uninstalling the app that initiates the process and allows you to select what gets backed up. Calling it "stealth" is either ignorant, or click-bait (oh nose it was the internet pixies).

        After prompting you the first time, every time y

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by Darinbob ( 1142669 )

        The solution is to turn off the uploading in the preferences. The app is just a front end to display pictures from Google Play. Android is what is uploading the pictures.

    • You have made a drunk man laugh until his sides hurt. I hope you are happy.

    • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Saturday July 11, 2015 @07:46AM (#50087907)

      Your analogy just shows that you don't understand the problem. A TV switched on is very obvious. And it's not a privacy issue.
      The problem described by the OP is not obvious, and is a privacy problem.

      • Yeah it would seem like a relatively easy fix for the background uploader service to check

        Something sorta like:

        if (photosApp.isInstalled()) {
            performBackupSync();
        } else {
            promptUser(); //ask user if they still want to backup...
        }

      • Your analogy just shows that you don't understand the problem. A TV switched on is very obvious. And it's not a privacy issue.
        The problem described by the OP is not obvious, and is a privacy problem.

        You turn on backup sync and are surprised when it backs up your files? Seems rather obvious to me

        • It's not at all obvious that a process that you turn on in an app continues to happen when the app is uninstalled. The most obvious mental model is that the app is the thing that performs the process.

          Now it may be that you have some technical knowledge of how it actually works in Android. The implementation details. But this is a phone. Such knowledge of implementation decisions shouldn't be expected or required.

          • They may have turned it on in the app but it's just toggling a global setting that can be accessed from multiple locations/apps. The app itself isn't performing any backup, it's just an ease of access setting within the app for the backup function. At best it might need a better description within the app.

        • I understand the confusion - the user was given a shortcut to a system function (sort of... it's actually an "accounts" function). The user did not know this was a system function. This is because apps are are allowed to mess with the accounts settings directly - a no-no for most other system functions. Android should probably find a way to make this explicit - the most straightforward (though less user-friendly way) might be to do what they do with the other system functions: the app can send you there, bu

      • A voice controlled smart TV switched on with no picture because the satellite/cable box is off is both non-obvious, and a privacy issue.
        Is this the fault of the manufacturer of the TV, because they didn't put up a huge "NO SIGNAL, BUT YOUR TV IS STILL ON, IDIOT!!!1!!!1" banner on the display when there's no signal detected?
        Or is it the idiot user's fault because they didn't turn off the fscking TV?

      • Your analogy just shows that you don't understand the problem. A TV switched on is very obvious. And it's not a privacy issue. The problem described by the OP is not obvious, and is a privacy problem.

        Actually his analogy is almost spot on. A cable box switched on is not at all obvious if the TV is off. And your cable company is monitoring which channels you're watching.

  • Well thats just a bunch of horse hockey. If you uninstall an app, it's service related functions should stop. This is just some crazy thing google is doing to keep getting access to your data for analysis. They make money by analyzing everything you do online and with android products. In this instance, it is something they should be shamed for continuing to do after you removed the software.
  • This just in... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Saturday July 11, 2015 @07:41AM (#50087893)
    Google Photos is a different application than backup sync. More at 11.
    • Re:This just in... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Saturday July 11, 2015 @07:57AM (#50087957)

      Such! Quiet!, We want to be outraged on all things. We can be unreasonably outraged from all things, with bringing in logic and reason to the argument. What are you some sore of Unamerican, elitist academic or something.

    • by Jiro ( 131519 )

      Google Photos is a different application than backup sync. More at 11.

      Nonsense. This is a user interface problem. The whole thing is designed such that someone who runs Google Photos would reasonably believe that Google Photos is doing the uploading and that if you get rid of Google Photos, it will not upload.

      User interface problems inherently lead to users not knowing how to do things. Replying "it doesn't work that way, and the user should have known that" is just trying to deny the concept of user int

    • Google Photos is a different application than backup sync. More at 11.

      Yep, and the "summary" is not accurate (big surprise). Most of the dumb analogies people have posted are information free because they didn't read the referenced article. The original "author" installed the Backup tool. It backed up his photos. He removed the backup tool and deleted the local photos. Then was horrified to discover that the backed up photos still existed. His conclusion - use Flickr.

      tl;dr? The original story was written by an idiot, then sexed up as a summary by a bigger idiot. Which created

  • by qubezz ( 520511 ) on Saturday July 11, 2015 @08:04AM (#50087981)

    I have a Galaxy S5, and have encountered the same types of problems with the baked-into-the-OS Google services. I have rooted the phone, installed app-ops (useless Google window dressing), and then xposed framework and xprivacy. The level of intrusion and data capture is simply stunning.

    The first thing that usually blows people mind is when they visit Google GPS location history page at https://maps.google.com/locati... [google.com] - even though they weren't aware of it, every move they've made for months has been tracked down to the minute by Google. You can "turn location history off" on that web page, but the GPS is so baked into the OS that this cute web page checkbox is almost guaranteed not stop the continuous GPS gathering. In fact, after blocking location access by GPS, you get a stern warning "enable location services for gps", and the "do not ask again" is greyed out if you do not allow it, you will get nagged regularly.

    Your phone is essentially rooted. If it can ring remotely, be located via GPS and be disabled by "find a phone" features, it is not you that has root on the OS. It is the company that can employ that at any time.

    The Google intrusion is multifaceted once you start digging in, dozens of different components of the OS that make contact with external servers without documentation. Spending massive time disabling their access to your personal data one by one will usually result in a borked phone. One of those back doors is going to get your data even if you think you turned everything off.

    Then we have the Samsung apps that are in full intrusion mode. The health app? Wants your contacts and location. The keyboard software? Wants your contacts and location.

    It is of course impossible to use these devices without your entire contact list, phone and text engagement, password list, etc, being scarfed up and sent to the cloud. Any single OS library that has network access can act as a gateway to other components that look like they are otherwise behaving when they access your clipboard, screen, etc.

    The biggest problem is not that every aspect of your life is tied together by a corporation, who has recordings of your voice, keystrokes of everything you've typed, pictures of you that are run through facial recognition, etc. It's that this is all going over the wire to a corporation that is too big for one government to reign in. A corporation that has had their internal communications tapped by the NSA. A corporation that "plays ball" with law enforcement by giving them their own handy web portal to data. And of course is all behind one password that can be hacked and cracked on by the entire world of hackers from lawless nation states. Soon coming to a Windows 10 computer near you.

    • Soon coming to a Windows 10 computer near you.

      That would require a Windows 10 computer to be anywhere near me. On the evidence so far, that seems unlikely.

      But seriously, every time another one of these stories comes out, it does remind me why I like feature phones, and why Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia has me nervous.

    • a corporation that is too big for one government to reign in [...] A corporation that has had their internal communications tapped by the NSA. A corporation that "plays ball" with law enforcement by giving them their own handy web portal to data.

      It seems like with you, the witch is guilty whether she floats or drowns. At this point, you can't plead ignorance anymore: you know exactly what Google is doing. If you don't like it, don't buy their phones. And governments are perfectly capable of reigning in Goog

      • by adolf ( 21054 )

        And governments are perfectly capable of reigning in Google, as you can see from the fact that they can tap their private networks and force them to set up web portals (Google seems to be offering as much resistance as possible, through using encryption and notifications whenever they can).

        It is a fact that if the NSA wants to put a magic box in your datacenter, you must accept their magic box into your datacenter and tell noone of its existence, under threat of treason (because terrorism).

        Google's good use

    • that this level of data collection enables Google Now to serve me very well with updates that I appreciate (traffic and delays along routes that I regularly travel at about this time, events near places I'm likely to be, and so on).

      I understand that some prefer that their data not be shared with Google or others. But let's not swing too far the other direction and assume that nobody finds cloud services to be valuable. I, for one, like them very much and am happy to provide Google with as much data about me

      • by adolf ( 21054 )

        Me, too. I am consistently amazed at the quality and accuracy of Google Maps' traffic layer, which relies entirely upon location reporting. This data also feeds into both of Google's navigation systems (Waze and Maps).

        I also use and appreciate Google's Location History, which I do use to track myself and generate accurate and accountable bills for my clients. This apparently works fine, because nobody has ever questioned any of my bills.

        Now, that said: If I were up to no good, I'm also smart enough to l

    • by adolf ( 21054 )

      You agreed to the tracking before your phone even let you use it as a phone. You had the option to disagree. You chose differently than you might have preferred, but you still chose what you chose.

      Didn't read the contract you agreed to? Cry me a fucking river. (I see that you've already begun doing that.)

      Further, you don't even know what "root" means: It is nothing more than an abstraction of UID 0, and of course there are things running as UID 0. It's fucking Unix. PID 1 (aka init) is executed by th

    • I have a Galaxy S5, and have encountered the same types of problems with the baked-into-the-OS Google services. I have rooted the phone, installed app-ops (useless Google window dressing), and then xposed framework and xprivacy. The level of intrusion and data capture is simply stunning.

      Google play services is spyware on a grand scale.

    • The first thing that usually blows people mind is when they visit Google GPS location history page at https://maps.google.com/locati... [google.com] - even though they weren't aware of it, every move they've made for months has been tracked down to the minute by Google.

      Except that on the 4th page of the setup when you first turn on it explains location services to you and offers you the ability to turn it off. So the only people who get their mind blown are those who don't actually read any of the screen when they first turn their phone off.

      You can "turn location history off" on that web page, but the GPS is so baked into the OS that this cute web page checkbox is almost guaranteed not stop the continuous GPS gathering.

      So turn it off on the device. The checkbox is not available only on the first start of the device. It's an option in the settings.

      In fact, after blocking location access by GPS, you get a stern warning "enable location services for gps", and the "do not ask again" is greyed out if you do not allow it, you will get nagged regularly.

      Funny that. Phone with features that require location services to work prompts users when the features aren't enabled. In other news my phone asks me to switch flightmode off when I turn wifi on. Unacceptable I say, how dare it!

      Your phone is essentially rooted. If it can ring remotely, be located via GPS and be disabled by "find a phone" features, it is not you that has root on the OS. It is the company that can employ that at any time.

      So you linked your phone via a fundamental feature of the OS to an account held by a third party for the purpose of integrating with the phone, and then you're surprised when some of the features work?

      The Google intrusion is multifaceted once you start digging in, dozens of different components of the OS that make contact with external servers without documentation. Spending massive time disabling their access to your personal data one by one will usually result in a borked phone. One of those back doors is going to get your data even if you think you turned everything off.

      Remind me again why you even bothered syncing your phone with a Google account if you want to turn all the benefits off?

      Then we have the Samsung apps that are in full intrusion mode. The health app? Wants your contacts and location. The keyboard software? Wants your contacts and location.

      It is of course impossible to use these devices without your entire contact list, phone and text engagement, password list, etc, being scarfed up and sent to the cloud. Any single OS library that has network access can act as a gateway to other components that look like they are otherwise behaving when they access your clipboard, screen, etc.

      Funny enough not all of us want to manually setup locales and then add the spelling of every single of our friend's names into the autocorrect dictionary. I'm glad this shit disappeared with location awareness. By the way it's a Samsung device. If they wanted to covertly suck the data away they could do it in far less obvious ways than permissions in apps.

      The biggest problem is not that every aspect of your life is tied together by a corporation, who has recordings of your voice, keystrokes of everything you've typed,

      Stop man, you're going full retard.

      pictures of you that are run through facial recognition, etc. It's that this is all going over the wire to a corporation that is too big for one government to reign in. A corporation that has had their internal communications tapped by the NSA. A corporation that "plays ball" with law enforcement by giving them their own handy web portal to data. And of course is all behind one password that can be hacked and cracked on by the entire world of hackers from lawless nation states. Soon coming to a Windows 10 computer near you.

      Too late.

      The only real answer for you is to go off the grid. Destroy your phone and burn all your belongings. It's not like you actually use any of your smartphone features anyway.

  • Depends on whether you consider cloud backups a thing, or indeed public-facing cloud backups as Google Photos appears to be.

    Or, public-facing cloud backups tagged by slowly improving AI on the cusp of deciding whether you are man or ape? http://www.bbc.com/news/techno... [bbc.com]

    I can see it is embarrassing to Google that its AI is deciding black people are gorillas. Tells you something about who's coding the low levels of this AI as it gathers itself together. It's growing from the bones of things like Google Photo

  • Sorry for the OP's issues. For some reason the damn thing WON'T back-up my photos, and I keep getting an annoying pop-up every few days reminding me that it can't back-up the photos. Tradsies?
  • So you expected the service for free?
  • Which for Google is a stretch as there are sub ToS's, But with Samsung it's very clear they record and own everything you do. If the author wishes to take this up with Samsung, the Provence in South Korea is clearly given for such undertakings.

    I have a Galaxy S5 and am aware of this and still use it, yet I've never used the smart features of my Samsung monitor (but not a problem as it's just a monitor).

    Samsung SmartTV Customers Warned Personal Conversations May Be Recorded
    http://yro.slashdot.org/story/... [slashdot.org]
    "S

  • ...and neither can we, unless we rewrite the EULA.

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