Google's Photos App Keeps Saving Pictures After App Is Deleted

For users, it means less control of their content when they stop using the app. It can be fixed by making changes to settings in Google Play Services.

Google Photos, photo editing, app, tablets, smartphones

If you think that by deleting the Google Photos app from your devices it will stop collecting your photos, think again.

Even after being deleted from a smartphone, tablet or other device, the app continues to back up and upload a user's photos, which is not being appreciated by at least one user who is loudly complaining about the "feature."

David A. Arnott, the assistant news editor of the Nashville Business Journal, wrote in a July 10 story that he had downloaded and experimented with Google Photos earlier this spring after its May release and that while he liked some of its features, he eventually deleted it in favor of another photo app he had previously been using. While using Google Photos, he had taken hundreds of photos of his wife, his daughter and himself, which were then grouped together by Google's facial-recognition technology in the app.

Some five weeks later, he reinstalled the app and was surprised to see all kinds of images that he'd taken since he had deleted the app. "They weren't synced from my phone in that moment, because I always delete photos from my device once they've been uploaded," he wrote. "My phone must have been uploading pictures to Google Photos even though I didn't even have Google Photos on my phone."

He then went to his laptop and again found the new images there, even when they should not have been there, he wrote. Through some testing, he found that by installing and then deleting the app on any device, images would be uploaded to Google Photos even if the app had been deleted.

Arnott wrote that he quickly contacted Google about what he considered to be a bug and received a response that said, "The backup was as intended." The email continued that if he wanted to stop the continued backups that he would have to change settings in Google Play Services.

"It goes almost without saying that this makes no sense, and makes me not trust Google," Arnott wrote. "Plus, it seems to me to possibly represent a security issue. If I understand how Google Photos works, none of my photos were made public to the wider world. But that's beside the point—I didn't want Google to have them, either."

Once deleting the app, "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," he wrote. "Google Photos is baked into newer phones, meaning the user can't easily uninstall the app."

Arnott wrote that he is "uncomfortable with the idea that Google had access to pictures of my daughter and used that access to develop information, without my knowledge, about what she looks like and where she spends time."

CNNMoney reported on July 13 that Google said it is working on a fix for the issue. "Some users have uninstalled the Photos app on Android without realizing backup as an Android service is still enabled," a Google spokeswoman told CNNMoney. "We are working to make the messaging clearer as well as provide users who uninstall the Photos app an easy way to also disable backup."

To completely disable automatic syncing, users can go to Google settings on their phone, select Google Photos and turn backup off.

Google announced the Google Photos app at the Google I/O developers conference in May. The app provides unlimited photo storage in the Google cloud and features fast searching methods to find and display individual and groups of images and/or videos. The app is available for Android and iOS devices.