I have just spent an hour or two going through thousands of images stored in my Google Photos Cloud account. Some of these go back to 2011.
Now, if you are a traveller like me and travel light, which in my case means with an iPad, and you automatically backup up photos and other documents to the ‘cloud’, you will know how useful this feature can be. Having access to images, documents and other files stored in the cloud, no matter how far away you may be from home, is fast becoming an essential service for the convenience it offers to travellers of all descriptions—especially tourists and business people.
I’m a good example. For instance, I always take screenshots of receipts, concert tickets, booking information, flight itineraries, and sometimes even screenshots of information when I am online checking my bank statements. Of course I always try to remember to delete the most personal information after I have made use of it (Of course you do, Jim!)
On reviewing the photos and screenshots in my Google Photos account today, I was shocked to find all sorts of personal information, such as passwords, bank statements, credit card numbers, passport details, security codes, my home address, email accounts, and much more ‘safely’ backed up to the Cloud.
The implications of this are obvious. We assume that these types of backup services are safe and secure from hackers and snoopers, and that may very well be the case. But if I had lost, or had my smartphone or iPad stolen, an enterprising and knowledgable person would find it simple enough to scroll through my Google Photos account on the off chance that personal information had found its way there. And in my case, they would have found plenty!
“But wait,” you say, “Surely everyone needs an email address and passwords to sign into their online accounts.”
Well, yes, but the helpful engineers at Google have a solution for that. They have designed their software to automatically save our sign-in details (after asking permission first), thus make the log-in process quick and painless, and if you are anything like me, you will have happily agreed to this time saving feature. Needless to say, any enterprising snooper will also be grateful to you for implementing these shortcuts!
One way of protecting ourselves from this type of deliberate or even inadvertent snooping is to log out of every application after we have finished using it. But of course, we all know how irritating it is to log into a service every time we want to access it.
So what’s a hard-pressed traveller to do?
|Screenshot of files backed up to Google Drive|
Well, you could disable all automatic backups to your cloud service providers, but that is not always the ideal option. If you do continue to use cloud services, the smart thing to do is make sure you sign out of your accounts like Google (and all other apps and programs) once you have finished doing whatever it was you were engaged in at the time. This is a better option than not using backup services at all. And if you can’t be bothered doing even that, then for goodness sake, at least check the files and photos stored with your cloud service provider on a regular basis, and delete those files that contain your personal notes, documents, screenshots and other private information.
While you are at it, check through Google Drive, the other Cloud backup service that may be storing important documents and information you would rather not share with the rest of the world.
And when you have finished doing that, you may also need to check your Dropbox and Apple iCloud accounts, or any other of the dozens of backup services now available, which is exactly what I am going to do now.