Well, Google Photos offer unlimited storage for us to store our photos and videos for FREE. While I was believing that I’ve met the best Photos storage app ever on earth, with a trusted brand: Google, stated on its site [your photos will be safe, secure, and always with you.]

Until, a moment that touched my nerve, was how Google Photos scanned my private photos content and serve me with related branding ads. This case just happened recently, early April, I was on a business trip in Hong Kong, randomly took few photos of my favorite soft drinks: Hong Kong & Macau culture art printed on the Coke can. As usual, photos auto saved on my Google Photos.


Google Photos

Saving in the Google Photos, there are three designs for the coke cans. The first Coke tin coated Macau’s iconic¬†Ruins of St. Paul’s, the second was the Hong Kong City life and the third one was the Chinese Opera culture.




I’ve also randomly shared one of the photos to my family’s private group chat room in LINE App, without mentioning any keywords.



Google Photos Privacy Intrusion

When I was reading news online, a Coke ad that exactly looks like my Coke photos appeared on the news!


Google Photos Privacy Intrusion Ad 2

The advertiser running on Google remarketing campaign, the banner ad appears most of the time to gain brand awareness.


Macau Coke Awareness Ad

Upon clicking on the ad, it landed on a one-page Macau Coke’s brand awareness campaign with their cultural-rich historical evolvement from 50′, 60′ to contemporary design.


The Conspiracy Theory

Start: I uploaded photos on Google Photos personal private album
> Google scans the content of my photos, identified certain product brand – Macau Coke.
> Google uses my user id + my [interest on Macau Coke] for: Hey Advertiser, this user group showing interest to your product, it’s the best time to show them your ad!
> Advertiser: Cool! Let’s do it, show them our most relevant ad! Macau Coke banner!
End: Me: Saw the ad and: WDF?! Google you scan my photo content for the advertiser?


Google Imaging Recognition Tech

As an SEO practitioner, I often work on image optimization for client’s website images, the standard process including injecting keywords into image alt tag, image title and image caption and of course image size compression. This process is obviously telling Google image bot, like: hey this is a brand smartphone with a 258GB memory. For years human feeding data to the giant Machine Learning and now Google imaging technology is undoubtedly intelligent enough to [scan Google Photos content] and [‘sell’ for advertiser] that [target extremely precise to the right audience]. So yeah, a picture is worth a thousand words, and Google has been mastered at it.


Moral of the Story:

Google Photos is really convenience with free unlimited storage. Just once again, use it wisely, do not snap your highly sensitive photo such as bank account related info, strictly confidential photos, private photos & etc store into your Google Photos, even though saving inside a private album, Google still scan them and capture the business opportunity, as usual.

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