Google Confirms Change Affecting One Billion Google Photos Users

Shortly after canceling one of its most confusing services, Google has now disabled by default an important Google Photos feature relied upon by millions of users.

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Google has announced that it is changing the way the Google Photos app will perform automatic backups. From now on, images saved onto your device by messaging apps will no longer be backed up to Google’s cloud-based service by default. You’ll have to take action if you want these backups to continue.

There’s no official list of affected apps, but WhatsApp, Messages and Kik are specifically mentioned as being affected. Google’s reasoning is in response to increased sharing during the Covid-19 pandemic and a desire to cut back on unnecessary internet bandwidth.

The change only affects the app’s default behavior and can be reversed, but if you don’t take action now you may lose important photos should you lose or upgrade your phone. You can re-enable backups for any affected apps by following the instructions in Google’s new support document. However, you’ll have to turn the feature back on manually for each one individually using the following steps:

  • Tap “Library”, then look for “Photos on device” and tap the “View” all button.
  • Locate the folder you want to be backed up, e.g. “WhatsApp Images”
  • Turn on “Back up & sync” using the slider near the top of the screen.

On the face of it, Google’s decision seems reasonable. The company has already taken steps to reduce bandwidth consumption on YouTube and we’ve seen similar moves made by other Internet heavyweights such as Netflix, Facebook, Disney and Amazon. However, the timing of this latest announcement is baffling given that most of the services above implemented their cut-backs around three months ago and are now returning to their pre-pandemic configurations. The change also comes in the wake of a huge Google Photos update which will likely increase data consumption with its new emphasis on exploring memories.

Either way, it’s important for all Google Photos users to check their settings right now.

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