First Click: Put your trust (and photos) in Google

May 29th, 2015

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Your reaction to the Google I/O announcement of free, unlimited storage for Google Photo says a lot about your trust in the company. Was it:

“Free is awesome, Google is awesome!”

or

“Why would they do that? Sounds suspicious.”

These responses get back to the old argument that you're the product if the service is free. If you’re paying $99 per year for 1TB of DropBox storage then the company’s motivations are clear. If it’s free, then, well, how does the company make money?

Trust is incredibly important when it comes to photos. With the rise of smartphones, photography has extended way beyond kids, sunsets, and puppies. It’s now common to photograph receipts, passports, credit cards, and all kinds of legal documents as a means of record keeping. We still photograph our kids in the tub, only now they’re stored with geotags.

With that in mind, read this excerpt from the announcement of Google Photos:

“Google Photos automatically organizes your memories by the people, places, and things that matter. You don’t have to tag or label any of them, and you don’t need to laboriously create albums.”

In other words, Google automatically scans every photo and uses its powerful neural network to assign metadata.

If you trust Google then this is welcoming news — it makes life easier and saves time, not just in the Photos app but in services like Now (and Now on Tap). If you don’t trust Google then it’s just another case of the “don’t be evil” company exploiting you for advertising profit.

For people on the fence, free unlimited photo storage is hard to ignore. And the fact that Photos is also a great photo manager is a powerful motivator to jump into Google’s binary embrace.

My own photo collection is just that: a collection of hard drives filled with proprietary databases from all the photo apps I’ve used over the years. All in all I’d estimate about 200GB of photos (including digitally scanned film) that I've been meaning to centralize and tag forever — and this makes it so damn easy. I'm very tempted by Google Photos but still haven’t made a decision.

Have you?

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