For the last two days, I’ve been checking and cross-checking if I have the best photo management workflow, for this, I wanted to check two services which sprang up over the last one year – Apple photos and Google photos. Number of websites cited Google’s product is the better one with its exemplary facial recognition, search and experience. All articles highlighted only one point – if you like privacy, use Apple photos and if you don’t bother then Google photos. If you compare the TOS (terms of services) of each service:
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). Some Services may offer you ways to access and remove content that has been provided to that Service. Also, in some of our Services, there are terms or settings that narrow the scope of our use of the content submitted in those Services. Make sure you have the necessary rights to grant us this license for any content that you submit to our Services. Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.
Except for material we may license to you, Apple does not claim ownership of the materials and/or Content you submit or make available on the Service. However, by submitting or posting such Content on areas of the Service that are accessible by the public or other users with whom you consent to share such Content, you grant Apple a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on the Service solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted or made available, without any compensation or obligation to you.
Reading these brought me to one aspect of web that’s been bothering me for sometime. Many people don’t think privacy is necessary or a right that should be protected, (we think since it’s not an issue now, it’ll never be an issue). We post our pictures on Facebook, we ask Google questions more than we ask our professors, we check-in to restaurants, bookmark places to visit, share our geographic location to various apps to get their benefits. And, we do all this voluntarily and to be fair, this is how we can take advantage of different services offered by the internet. But, on the flip side, we leave a digital trial/a digital footprint. Just by checking your facebook, I get to know what movies you saw, what music you listen, which artists you love, what brands you wear, where all you’ve been (across the world) and with whom. Don’t we know recruiters see our profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook and decide whether to hire us or not? Don’t we check each others’ profiles before dating or getting married? Why? Because that data is us. When you see the data, you can predict what kind of a person one is. Now, just imagine, by combining all your google searches, facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, blogs, and all the other stuff you do on the internet, the accuracy of predicting who you are has gone by a couple of notches? Now, take a consumer product like ‘Google photos’ which can ‘read’ your photos and identifies ‘faces’, ‘places’, ‘stuff in your photos (buildings, flowers, etc), etc. Is it not scary how much tech companies know about us, sometimes more than our dearest friends? Now, enter the government. Edward Snowden leaked documents pertaining to NSA’s project ‘Prism‘ which monitored our “email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice-over-IP chats (such as Skype), file transfers, and social networking details”. What can the government do with all that? Identify potential threats in the name of protection? (ala Minority report), eliminate trouble makers (ala Bourne)? Plant misinformation? Character assassination? Paranoia? Could be. But, is it not possible? (If your answer is no, then you naive). Governments have backed-up these initiatives citing ‘terrorism’. But, how intrusive can or should they be? Eric Schmidt once said:
“the reality is that search engines, including Google, do retain this information for some time. And it is possible that that information could be made available to the authorities”.
The Indian government even argued that right to privacy does not exist. Do we or do we not have that right? Will we be ok if someone comes to our house window and peep through them? Then how different is internet? This is the debate raging right now. We don’t know what the outcome would be. But, digital trials are permanent. If you get on Google’s or Facebook’s server once, you cannot get off it – ever (read the third line in the above google’s TOS). So, what should you post? what should you share? what should you upload? how much should you trust any company? should you pay for privacy? or should you opt for free services and become their product (by letting them mine your data?) these questions do not have any standard answers, but only individual ones.
As for deciding on the photo service, I think I’ll go with Apple’s product even though it’s not as good as Google’s. (I do know Google’s product is so good, because it can mine our data at its centres).
However, one point is clear, if you want secrecy or privacy – steer clear of the web and raise carrier pigeons.