Dec 11 2017 :: by Alex Yumashev

Seems like Google is finally giving up trying to build their own social network. They have found another way of sneaking into your personal life: Google Photos

"Google what"?

Ever heard of Google Photos? Probably not so much if you own an iPhone. Actually, privacy issues aside, Google Photos is great. It offers free unlimited storage of your photos in the cloud, offering apps for both iOS and (obviously) Android. And it finally solves my constant "phone's out of storage" problem, that I run into every month. The moment I take a picture it's being uploaded to the cloud and comes up on all my devices and computers.

It's basically like iCloud, but with a more slick and transparent UX and without being tied to Apple's ecosystem.

How is that dangerous?

"If something is free, means you are the product"

Google has been really, REALLY jealous of Facebook for years. Facebook knows where you are, who your friends are, what you look like and where you spend your vacation... It's is terrifying how much it knows. And all this data has been completely hidden from GoogleBot, which pisses them off.

Facebook is also known for creating "shadow profiles" for people who are not even registered on Facebook. Like your dad for example - "OK, this same 65-y.o. person keeps appearing on that other person's photos, close to each other, sometimes with kids, so probably related, locations are X,Y,Z, also present in phone/gmail contacts of person A,B and C, probable social graph is XYZ..." etc. etc.

Now, Google has been desperately trying to get to this info. The copany took four forays into social networking: "Google Buzz", "Google Friend Connect", "Orkut" and finally "Google Plus" being their latest pathetic attempt. Now with the rise of AI and computer vision becoming more efficient than humans in facial recognition they don't need a social network any more, all they need is access to your photos.

What can be extracted from a photo?

Now, having rapidly grown to 500 million monthly active users, here's the data Google extracts from your pictures:

  • Location
  • Date & time
  • Device information (iPhone/Samsung/etc)
  • Objects and people on the picture

That last one becomes really dangerous when more and more people start using the app, allowing Google to create "shadow profiles" and cross-reference people on the photos.

From pictures of you on your own phone, to pictures of you on your wife's phone... a picture of you on a total stranger's phone. No big deal, he was just taking a selfie in London-Heathrow and you were walking on the background with 100s of other people.

'Google doesn't need its own social network' was written by Alex Yumashev
Alex Yumashev
Alex has founded Jitbit in 2005 and is a software engineer passionate about customer support.

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