Those Cloud Photo Services…What’s the Risk?

Over the last few weeks, several people have said to me, I am afraid to use the iCloud to backup my photos because I’m afraid of getting hacked.

Are you doing nothing to protect your photos because of hacking fears?

those cloud photo services

A few years ago, I was steering clients away from the iCloud for a bunch of reason, but I’ve changed my tune recently for families who are all-Apple. The iCloud is now a decent way to backup photos. It’s not excellent because it does still have some issues, but hey, don’t we all?

What I’m not particularly concerned about is hacking. If you are Beyonce, maybe you should be worried, because we did hear of a couple of stars getting hacked a while back. If you are Beyonce and reading my blog, could you drop me a line?

For most of us, the risk of losing all of our photos due to a toilet drop or computer/phone failure is much, much, much higher than getting hacked specifically in your iCloud photo account. And if you do get hacked there, what will the hackers get? Photos of your dog? Photos of your lunch? GPS information about where you vacation? You’re already posting that stuff on Facebook, so there’s not much there to hack, folks.

What I DO worry about is putting any of your photos on any public service. Any public service. That includes iCloud, Google Photos, Facebook, Flickr, and just about any other social media platform you can think of. I worry about this (and chose not to use any of those platforms myself), because all of these public and free platforms take the right to your photos when you load them. Whether you are loading them to share or just to store a backup, these companies now own your photos.

Yep, you read that right. They own your photos.

How do you know? They tell you in their Terms of Service. That’s the legalese that every one of us clicks “I agree” to when we sign up. Because who has the time to read all that? Because we can’t change it anyway. If you want to play, you play by their terms.

OK, so why you do care that Google, Apple, or Facebook now “owns” your photos? What does that really mean?

If I copied all the relevant clauses here, this would be a very long article, so I’ll just share the Google terms.

“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, communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display, and distribute such content.”

“This license continues even if you stop using our service.”

“Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails)…This occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.”

“Google may also stop providing Services to you, or add or create new limits to our services at any time.”

Which phrase concerns you the most? If you aren’t concerned by any of it, no problem. Continue to use these services. There is no denying that Google (and other large info companies) make it easy to use, and there are some helpful features in there. But privacy? That is not a feature or a concern of Google. They own you.

Who cares? Well, check out these articles that highlight folks who ended up unknowingly participating in advertising campaigns. I’m not drawing a straight line between Google Photos and these cases. There are plenty of ways to steal photos. But if you don’t know what’s going on, how can you protect yourself?

Family finds photo used around the world

Use My Photo? Not Without Permission


So what are the alternatives? Let me restate, if this doesn’t concern you, use whatever photo backup service is easiest for you to use. If you aren’t a Hollywood property, and you don’t have anything to hide, who cares where your photos go? Protecting yourself against an inevitable phone failure or loss should be a much bigger deal to you than loss of control over your photo.

If, on the other hand, you do want to maintain control and ownership of your photos AND you want to protect them from accidental loss, there are several solutions that I like much, much better. These solutions work for all-Apple users, as well as users with both Apple, Android, and/or PC’s. is a Pittsburgh, PA-based photo storage company founded on valuing your privacy and ownership. You pay a single fee, and your photos are stored on their service, forever. Your photos are yours, and they are never shared or analyzed for advertising data. is a computer-based service, which allows your own computers and mobile devices to back up to each other, creating a really efficient and space-saving storage network that you own. Your photos are never shared or stored on a cloud service, unless you set it up that way.

Carbonite and Backblaze are online backup services that provide secure online backups for your computers. But unlike the other cloud services mentioned, all of your data is encrypted all the time. You pay an annual fee to backup your computer’s data continually. You choose what gets backed up. We usually set up our clients to backup photos, videos, and all other personal data files on your computer.

Use an External Hard Drive. These devices sit in your house and are as easy as can be to plug in and backup your data. They cost about $100 to purchase from a store or Amazon. If you aren’t quite sure what they do, click here to read more about External Hard Drives.

There are a few other services which are generally well regarded in the industry, including SmugMug. In general, if you pay a fee for the service, you are paying for privacy. If you don’t pay for it, you are the product. Those terms of service assign legal rights, and they don’t always assign those rights to you.

So, my assessment? If you are technically adept, value your privacy, and want to protect your pictures, go with one of my suggestions above. Did you do it? Whew! Doesn’t that feel good?

If you aren’t sure what the heck most of this article was about, but you still want to protect your photos and videos from permanent loss, and you have an iPhone? Then go sign up for that Apple iCloud, and do it with a smile on your face. Be joyful that your photos are protected and backed up, at least a little bit more than they were yesterday.

those cloud photo services



This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Natalie

    Excellent article. The “modify” condition in the terms is what concerns me. They can make you, or at least the photo, look as though it supports anything or cause they please.

    1. Darla

      You make a very good point.

  2. jenniferwise4heritagemakers

    This is an excellent article. I’ve shared it several times. Thank you for pointing all this out. I use Heritage Makers ( for my digital photo storage, but I’m a big believer in print being one of the very best ways to preserve photos, so I print them in books and scrap pages there, too. Heritage Makers could go on your “private photos” list as well. I am surprised at the number of people I talk to who think that everything is great if they just dump all their photos in the cloud somewhere and never see them again. What is even the point?! Anyway… thanks for the research on this. It backs up what I’m always saying and writing. 🙂

    1. Darla

      Thanks for adding this. I like the products from Heritage Makers very much. Things change, but the last time I looked at them, their forte was still very much in print books, and not in digital storage. Always learning, though.

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