back to article Google spins up 'FREE, unlimited' cloud photo storage 4 years before ad giant nixes it

Google has wheeled out a cloud-hosted photo storage service that, it hopes, will mean that embarrassing images from your past can be organized by computers so you don't have to. Youtube video The photo album software, available on Android and iOS from Thursday, slurps up all the photos on your mobile, and uploads them to a …

  1. FF22

    Great title!

    I dare you! I double dare you! Photokiller....

  2. phil dude
    Black Helicopters

    privacy...

    I don't want my photos in the cloud unless strongly encrypted with a key that google does not have.

    So exactly of what use is this , if you don't allow it to see photos?

    Sorry to sound negative, but I can see this might not be so great....

    P.

    1. Thorne

      Re: privacy...

      Sorry but if Google doesn't have it then how can it work? The whole point is that it compresses it and sorts it but if it can't read it then it can't do it.

      It's a free service, you don't have to use it. If you want absolute security then you need a paid cloud service.

      Personally I'd use it as I have a stack of photos sitting on my computer that I'd hate to lose due to a crash or crypto locker or such. Yes I could do a backup and give the copy to someone else but I haven't and it doesn't seem too bad and there isn't anything I want to hide.

      I'd use it.

      1. Martin 47

        Re: privacy...

        'If you want absolute security then you need a paid cloud service.'

        Hahaha, oh be still my aching sides.

        Absolute security and cloud, really?

        1. Thorne

          Re: privacy...

          "Absolute security and cloud, really?"

          Well yes. You can set up a system to encrypt the files locally and store in a cloud based server. The keys never leave the local machine.

          How much more secure do you want? Sure you could do your own backup and store in a pulse hardened fireproof safe built into a cold war bunker but it's just photos.

          1. LDS Silver badge

            Re: privacy...

            There are people for whom photos are their main asset, and built a business on them. Some images may have a very high historical value.

            And yes, there are photo storages in cold war bunkers in hardened safes at controlled temperature... fot those who need it. For example check the Corbis storage facilities in Pennsylvania and near Paris.

            Of course, they are not the users Google had in mind for its services.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: privacy...

              There are people for whom photos are their main asset, and built a business on them. Some images may have a very high historical value.

              Ooooooh, you just reminded me of something. I have to create a dummy Google account and see what Google does with the images. With a bit of luck they break copyright law in the same way as Facebook does so I can get a class action going for both.

              That's my weekend taken care of :)

    2. Tim99 Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: privacy...

      I suspect that its main use at Google will be to enable them to run face recognition software to work out who is in your photos, and then see what other photos these faces are recognised in, producing a net of likely terrorists customers for the organizations that actually pay them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: privacy...

        so,, like Google Image search has done for some time now across non Google sources?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: privacy...

        I suspect that its main use at Google will be to enable them to run face recognition software to work out who is in your photos, and then see what other photos these faces are recognised in, producing a net of likely terrorists customers for the organizations that actually pay them.

        Got it in one. I'm impressed by Google's ability to make people continuously overlook the fact that their main income is derived from data collection based intelligence, and I suspect that drives more than just focused advertising.

        By the way, I have the impression that Google outsources some of that facial processing work to your own computer, why would Picasa otherwise already do this? In this context I'm not happy with Apple either as the Photo app on OSX also does this, without any ability to disable it. Maybe I ought to lob that ball over the fence to Data Protection officials in a few countries and see how it lands.

        1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

          Re: privacy...

          The Photos app on OSX can be disabled you know. My other half used her noggin (and google) and quickly found how to stop it bursting into life when she inserted an SD card into her MBP. Instead it starts Lightroom if it is not already running.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: privacy...

            The Photos app on OSX can be disabled you know. My other half used her noggin (and google) and quickly found how to stop it bursting into life when she inserted an SD card into her MBP. Instead it starts Lightroom if it is not already running.

            I'm not sure if becoming dependent on an Adobe product is much of an improvement. All I want is for Photos not to run facial recognition without my permission.

    3. riking

      Re: privacy...

      They ARE strongly encrypted, just in a way that nobody _but_ Google will be able to get at them.

      If someone else broke into their system and took all the post-processed data, they would be able to feed it into their ad network targeting, which would destroy Google's competitive advantage that they're the only one who knows everything about you.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: privacy...

      Exactly my sentiments.

      Anyway, the subject is moot for me because I only shoot Raw and with either a 24mP or 36mP DSLR so my images are too big for it.

      So far on my current trip I have used 150Gb of storage for my snaps with some 27Gb yesterday. I would not want to pay for the uploads in both time or money for that little lot winging its way into Google's archive.

      sorry Chocolate Factory, I'll pass on this.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: privacy...

      This isn't about you. This is about more efficient NSA data collection.

  3. Notas Badoff
    IT Angle

    Nonplussed

    "... four years before it shuts it down."

    I'm sorry, where was this explained in the article? Or is this just a well-known cloud feature and I mist it?

    1. Tim99 Silver badge

      Re: Nonplussed

      It is a warning that Google are believed to have form for giving their users something, and then taking it away if it doesn't make enough money...

    2. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Nonplussed

      What Google giveth, it taketh away. Google Code, Glass, Reader, Wave, Talk, etc etc, projects axed when Google gets a bit bored of them.

      C.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ diodesign Re: Nonplussed

        "What Google giveth, it taketh away. Google Code, Glass, Reader, Wave, Talk, etc etc, projects axed when Google gets a bit bored of them."

        Yes, and no. If Google can't monetize the tech, it goes away.

        Here... you want to know why this tech will stick around and why Google is evil?

        It simple. You take a photo.

        Its your pet. Now Google knows you have a pet or pet(S). They now collect more data about your interests. So you can now expect to see more pet (dog, cat, etc ) related ads in your viewing habits.

        You travel? Now we know to send you more ads about travel. (Oh and since we can geocode and timestamp the photos, we know more about when you're likely to travel, and predict where you will want to go, so we can better serve ads to you.

        There's more and no, this isn't all, but I'll let the more paranoid readers continue down this trail... In short, the 16GB of photos isn't an arbitrary number. And there's something not said. Who owns the photos you upload? Do they suddenly become stock photos for Google to use?

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: @ diodesign Nonplussed

          "You travel? Now we know to send you more ads about travel. "

          Of course the likeliest ads will be those for places you've been to, not those you're going to go to next. Isn't Big Data clever?

          1. Alan_Peery

            Re: @ diodesign Nonplussed

            Some people go to the same place year after year,something that doesn't really work for me. But if you know that Dick and Jane Repeating will be visiting the beach in Norfolk again this year, that's a very valuable data point for serving adverts.

            1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

              Re: @ diodesign Nonplussed

              Beach in norfolk?

              Here have some adverts for thermals and winter clothing.

              Visiting Hunstanton in summer was always 'freeze your balls off' whereas Lynn could be positively barmy by comparison.

              1. Sarah Balfour

                Re: @ diodesign Nonplussed

                Barmy, Lynn, Norfolk…? http://www.comedy.co.uk/guide/tv/im_alan_partridge/characters/

                Methinks you meant 'balmy'…

        2. Stryker007

          Re: @ diodesign Nonplussed

          I hope some of the photos I take don't become stock photos to be used anywhere :-)

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @ diodesign Nonplussed

          Who owns the photos you upload? Do they suddenly become stock photos for Google to use?

          As far as I can tell, you just asked the Really Ugly Question that Google wants you to overlook. First a verbatim quote from their T&Cs, and then what I think that means in normal English.

          "When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps)."

          In English:

          - Google graciously give themselves rights to your uploads in perpetuity (I know they have carefully avoided that word, but let's get real), even if you signal you no longer want those images online by deleting them. Tough luck, and even tougher if they were of the party variety - welcome to the whack-a-mole game we already know from email addresses.

          - Google give themselves the right to use all your content for their own marketing efforts, so thank you very much that you spent a fortune travelling to the Amazon (no, not the shop) and risked you life chopping a path through the jungle, they will use your picture for free. You'll get nada. Tip for you: add a visible copyright notice to all your images, as removal or tampering with that is a criminal offence in the US, thus rendering it unusable (because cropping it off is also tampering). Oh, and they are allowed to change them too, so composing an image of you meeting some criminal is all perfectly legal. It may be a problem for you if that image wanders into some court case, but hey, you agreed to this. Better not say anything Google doesn't like...

          I am not entirely sure this is legally acceptable, though, because I can see arguments to flag this as unfair contract terms under UK law. But now you know why I don't have a Facebook or a Google account - I actually read these things and both of them have put terms in there that no right minded person would accept if they had bothered to read them and understand the implications.

          These companies are dangerous in many, many ways.

        4. Col_Panek

          Re: @ diodesign Nonplussed

          What would happen if Google contracted with the NSA to track you, your habits, the stuff you buy, the people you meet, and...well, everything about you, except recording your phone? Hey, it would save the government some money.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @ diodesign Nonplussed

            > What would happen if Google contracted with the NSA to track you

            Don't worry! El Reg has told us the project will be dead in a couple of years.

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Nonplussed

        What Google giveth, it taketh away. Google Code, Glass, Reader, Wave, Talk, etc etc, projects axed when Google gets a bit bored of them.

        Mixed bag there: Google Glass was never free and Google Talk got rolled into Hangouts. What about GMail and Maps? Both still there and still free as far as I can see. Personal data like photos are very sticky which is why there are so many services out there vying for our business. Be interesting to see if the paid option gets any traction.

        There were good reasons for folding Google Code and Reader. Wave should never have been released.

        1. petur

          Re: Nonplussed

          And my picasa webalbums of years ago got neatly migrated to G+ and now to photos...

          I dare say that the discontinued services are only a few, most remain... and there's always google takeout

          I can see this new photo thing attract lots of people, I only use it for public pictures, my private collection stays on my NAS....

    3. Captain DaFt

      Re: Nonplussed

      just <ahem> Google 'google graveyard' and you'll find tons of stuff like this:

      http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/map_of_the_week/2013/03/google_reader_joins_graveyard_of_dead_google_products.html

      1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

        Re: Nonplussed

        > just <ahem> Google 'google graveyard' and you'll find tons of stuff like this:

        Nah, I just DuckDuckGo'ed it..... (there's got to be a better slang term for DDG searches...)

        1. Captain DaFt

          Re: Nonplussed

          "Nah, I just DuckDuckGo'ed it..... (there's got to be a better slang term for DDG searches...)"

          Uh... "Just Duck it"? :) That's the reason I used the generic 'google'. It's more or less the de facto term for search these days.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Nonplussed

          "The video camera found by his body chronicles the first half of Patrick's hike before the batteries died. It ended with his haunting observation, "The only problem is that we have to hike back... This is the real world. One false move, and you're dead.""

          Yes, you just ducked it.

    4. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Nonplussed

      Try an old Android phone. Oh, but you can't, cloud services have been axed or the APIs to still-existing services have been depreciated...

      http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2014/06/saving-old-software-from-extinction-in-the-age-of-cloud-computing/

      And... Androids don't update well. For all the rocket scientists at Google they still haven't managed to separate kernel, generic Android framework, manufacturer-modified Android framework, manufacturer app, and operator app updates.

      Such is life on the Google OCD update treadmill.

      1. joeldillon

        Re: Nonplussed

        How are they supposed to 'separate' the modifications made to Android by manufacturers? That's not under their control. Android is open source, any manufacturer can do what they like to it.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Nonplussed

          There is the kernel which does require manufacturer help (drivers and so on). Google should do its best to make each version of Android work on several kernel versions. The manufacturer should do its best to update the kernel if it offers a benefit (better battery life, better radio, faster, etc...). You being on Android 4.4 because you like it more than 5.0 does not mean you shouldn't be able to get the best kernel as a software update should you want it. It could be called 'performance update' so the customers aren't scared.

          There's the Android framework. Use OverlayFS or UnionFS to join two partitions together. One partition is for stock Android and another is for the manufacturer's changes to the original stock Android partition. Any changes to stock Android (a .1 security update) could probably be made without any changes to the manufacturers' partition at all and that would mean you wouldn't be getting annoyed because a tiny but important WebKit bugfix is not being pushed to your phone because your manufacturer doesn't deem it worthwhile to recompile or your operator can't be bothered to okay it.

          Manufacturers' and operators' apps could be hosted on Play like normal apps. By apps I mean things that won't bring the phone to a halt if they're missing (photo albums, app stores, camera skin, etc...). If they aren't compatible with a newer version of Android then they are disabled and it's up to the manufacturer or operator to push out an update to Play.

          There should be no operator interference apart from okaying the original phone's release. If they are still okaying newer phones by this manufacturer and newer versions of Android, why would they not okay updates? All operator changes are to apps only and their apps should disappear if they become incompatible. An incentive for operators to keep updating and keep adding value or get left behind.

          It's going to be more complicated than that but it can be done technically, mostly with a bit of re-organisation of Android but it seems beyond Google.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: withdrawn APIs

        "Try an old Android phone. Oh, but you can't, cloud services have been axed or the APIs to still-existing services have been depreciated"

        Ditto smart TVs, Try using Youtube as of a few weeks ago on a 'smart' TV bought maybe a couple of years ago. Previous Youtube API has been withdrawn, TV builders cba updating the firmware to suit the new API, TV vendors think there's an opportunity here to sell a new set ASAP. Hopefully the vendors are wrong wrong wrong and that all this kind of thing will do is convince the observant that premium priced 'smart TVs' are a much worse option than a dumb TV with a low cost external smart box (although perhaps not a Google box).

        Trust not the Google.

  4. Mark 65

    Once the first 15GB of free Drive space is full, users must pay Google $10 a month for a terabyte of extra capacity.

    So, in other words, you can have free unlimited storage space for photos and videos if they are compressed

    Err, no you cannot have free unlimited storage as you've contradicted yourself in the space of two sentences.

    1. Thorne

      "Err, no you cannot have free unlimited storage as you've contradicted yourself in the space of two sentences."

      Yes you can. If Google can compact the files as they want, the photo doesn't count towards your quota. If you demand to store full res images, it does count.

      What you don't have is unlimited storage for full res images.

  5. Jim 48
    Meh

    I really don't understand why there is all this song & dance about this magical new service. I've had all my photos uploaded to Picasa Web Albums for years, these photos were also visible through Google+ Photos and now all they've done is split Google+ Photos into it's own URL (https://photos.google.com).

    From the Android side, my photos were automatically uploaded and you could select to have them compressed if you didn't want them to take up your storage allowance. I pay $5 a year for 20GB (a legacy deal that I get to keep as long as the payment never fails) plus through various offers have a total around 100GB available so I upload full size.

    Picasa Web Albums is still available and offered easier organisation of photos than G+ Photos. I had to switch to G+ Photos in Chrome in order to edit the photos though. In addition to this, the photos are also visible through Google Drive.

    _I_ want to decide what constitutes an album not some algorithm. Also, I would like to tag people in my photos without an email being sent to them and the photo automatically being shared with them, so that I can keep track of who is in which photo, something that was available in the Picasa desktop software but I haven't used that for years.

    So what's new?

    Edit: The article mentions 1TB, implying that is the lowest paid tier offered, but you can get 100GB for $1.99/month.

    1. frank ly

      "I pay $5 a year for 20GB ..."

      I pay nothing for 30GB because I have two Google accounts (15GB on each Google Drive). Is that $5 a year your gateway to further free allowances?

      1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

        I pay nothing too.

        @$10 a TB a month, I can recover the cost of my raid NAS sitting on my home network within a year.

        If I want to be paranoid, I can set up a network of boxes at friends and relatives....

        1. Locomotion69

          Re: I pay nothing too.

          Same here. And this "service" is something I am definitely not going to use anyway.

      2. Jim 48

        "I pay nothing for 30GB .."

        Not totally sure of the relevance but I'll bite; following that logic you could have an almost infinite amount of space (exaggeration for effect) as you can keep on creating new Google accounts, but in the context of this article (where the principle is keeping all your photos in one place) how does that help you?

        Most of my bonuses I would have gained whether I pay for storage or not, but admittedly some of these will eventually expire.

        A thumb down for a factually accurate account of the current state of play with storing photos on Google services? I am perpetually surprised how petty some people can be.

  6. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    WTF?

    classify an 11-year-old girl over the years as she grew up

    Am I the only one who thinks that this is somewhat on the weird side of creepy?

    More and more I find myself impressed by the cleverness of the algorithms and totally appalled by the uses to which they are put...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Six degrees of separation

    If there's just six degrees of separation between me and, say, Abu Hamza, how long will it be before I am dragged into one inquiry or another?

    1. Fink-Nottle
      Coat

      Re: Six degrees of separation

      > If there's just six degrees of separation between me and, say, Abu Hamza, how long will it be before I am dragged into one inquiry or another?

      Just be a matter of time ... they'll get you, by hook or by crook.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So Google will know...

    Your search history

    Your email

    and now...

    Your holiday destinations

    What your friends look like

    What stuff you own

    And from that they'll be able to extrapolate a nice marketing profile.

    This is Bob, he holidays in Paris and New York, he drives an Audi, he is friends with Mark and Sue.

    He googles for STD treatments.

    Lets provide his details to BUPA, he's clearly got lots of money and has some problems.

    Oh, and lets get some pop up ads to Mark and Sue for the local clinic to suggest they get tested.

    1. The_H

      Thank God then that Facebook don't already know all of that...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oh, and lets get some pop up ads to Mark and Sue for the local clinic to suggest they get tested.

      .. and let Bob know he really ought to switch to paid for services as his details are then "more secure".

      Just extrapolating where this is going. Blackmail apparently starts with intelligence gathering too.

    3. Cuddles Silver badge

      So Google will know...

      No, Google already knows. So does Facebook. And Amazon. And any number of other companies who have either collected similar data or bought it from someone who did. It doesn't matter if you've never used any of their services, at least some of your friends and family have. Google making some minor changes to their photo storage/sharing is going to making precisely zero difference to how much of your personal data is available to them or how it is used.

  9. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Am I the only one that wonders ...

    what Google is laying itself open to here.

    Hoover up a load of images from millions of random devices.

    *Some* of them are going to contravene a law somewhere .....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Am I the only one that wonders ...

      Am I the only one that wonders ...

      what Google is laying itself open to here.

      They will probably try the same trick as they (unsuccessfully) tried with privacy - all of a sudden they reside in another jurisdiction where it doesn't matter, or claim carrier independence.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People as depicted are an invention

    Groups of hip young things as depicted in the article are clearly an invention of the selfie marketing board and never existed until mobile phone manufacturers were forced to have cameras in everything. And obviously the selfie marketing board is simply another arm of Harold's Machine.

    I hate these people because either they can afford to spend all their time doing this stuff or because they did one thing once and make us endure countless repetitions of the same 'look at the quaint natives pandering to us' story, not realising that we are too polite to point out the problem there.

    Anon because it is one of those days and those pictures bring out the worst in me.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. Phuq Witt

    Flickr! Has! Had! This! For! A! While!

    Flickr has been offering 1TB free storage for quite a while now. I use it [with all images flagged as 'Private'] as another backup for my increasingly large photo archive.

    There are two downsides of the Flickr offering though:

    1: It doesn't support RAW, so a lot of my snaps aren't backed up.

    2: Their auto-uploading background app combines collosal over-eagerness with collosal stupidity. ie: it pops up annoying dialogues constantly, asking do you want to upload the contents of whatever you've just plugged into your computer —even if said item is a completely empty USB stick— and will ask the same next time you insert said peripheral. No matter how many times you tell it to "Ignore Device"

    1. Tom_

      Re: Flickr! Has! Had! This! For! A! While!

      I've been uploading RAW format photos to Flickr for years.

      1. Phuq Witt
        Unhappy

        Re: Flickr! Has! Had! This! For! A! While!

        @Tom_

        Sorry. I was a bit vague in my original post. I was thinking in backup terms when I said Flickr doesn't support RAW. You may be able to upload files in RAW format, but they don't stay RAW format. From the Flickr FAQs

        "...Flickr officially supports JPEGs, non-animated GIFs, and PNGs. You can also upload TIFFs and some other file types, but they will automatically be converted to and stored in JPEG format..."

  12. Jade

    Is it just me...

    or does it seem wrong to be showing a comparison of the "original" image vs "compressed" version by using a compressed image (ie, jpg) of the two?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    google apps/picasa/g+

    I pay £8 a month google apps for business, and get unlimited storage.

    All my picasa/g+ photos have been migrated across to photos with no intervention required from me.

    If I cared about this I wouldn't stick my photos in the cloud in the first place.

  14. cbars

    An Alternative

    I was excited to get an update to my Yotaphone2 last weekend (thanks El Reg for the review last year); Android 5.0, don't mind if I do!

    Hmm... Gallery has gone, WTF do I use to look at my photos? They ripped out a perfectly good app and replaced it with.... nothing! Google Photos didn't come down with the update, and wasn't on Play.

    So I went with QuickPic. I'm a happy chappy, it even integrates with OwnCloud. So I'm sorted, and cloudy, and I've still got control of my data.

    After reading this article, thank f*** for that. Perhaps the Russians who made the YotaPhone are slurping, for the FSB's intelligence data, but they are further away than the NSA/GCHQ, so I think it's the lesser evil). Come to think of it, no reason to think they are not all using crazy straws and drinking from the same data fountain, having a party, but again; meh.

    On with life.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Come on people

    It's the same shit every day with this.

    'x' company launches a service that will benefit the majority of normal users who don't give a fuck about their photos other than how they can get Aunty Jean to see them who knows fuck all about computers.

    People start screaming about privacy, security, etc.

    Seriously, fuck off. The vast majority of people don't give a shit about personal security of their imagery, as can be seen by the social media deluge this last decade or so. To them, it matters not a jot if Google, Yahoo, or their neighbour has the images, as long as they're there, somewhere, and accessible.

    If you really do have privacy concerns about your family photos, then dig yourself into a hole in the ground and seal yourself in, because that's the only way you'll be safe. If it's business imagery and it's your own, then the chances are you'd never use this kind of service because you (should) know that the second you upload your imagery online, you have lost control of it - regardless.

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