Google Photos Makes Public Links for Shared Files Even if You Send it to Specific People

Google Photos, Google's photo storage and sharing service, is, in fact, an easy-to-use platform to share images with colleagues, friends and family. The platform has incorporated several intuitive features such as backup in the cloud, shared libraries and an assistant that plays your photos and offers interesting results. However, he apparently has a privacy problem that is not explicitly mentioned.

We are talking about the function to share photos of the platform. First noticed by Robert Wilbin, the protocol's approach to sharing images is not so simple. He affirmed in the publication that the files shared with people are public and that anyone can access them. This honestly sounded absurd and I decided to try it myself and I was surprised by the results.

In general, when we share an image or video with a particular person when entering their email, it is assumed that the service allows access only to the specified person. Otherwise, you should explicitly mention the same, something like the Google Drive sharing options that very clearly specify these things.

Sharing options in Google Drive

On the contrary, there is no transparency in what happens after sharing a photo with a person in Google Photos. To ensure things, I uploaded an image of the account created from the email address of my work and shared it with my personal email address. While I could access the image when I logged into my personal email as I should, I tried to open the file from the email link in an incognito tab and was surprised to see the image without logging in.

I'm not blaming Google Photos for providing public links, which are actually useful for mass file sharing, a collection of wallpapers, for example, without the hassle of adding all the participants individually, which is a slow process. However, the application must clearly communicate to the user that the links will be public access, so that the user can make an informed decision about sharing with Google Photos.

This lack of clarity can cause serious threats to privacy in case a person shares confidential documents in Google Photos without knowing that anyone can access the file from the shared link to the recipient. Yes, I realize that for that to happen, the recipient should have voluntarily or unwittingly shared the link with the third party. If Google had endeavored to mention it at least as a pop-up window when sharing the file with a person, it would help him to choose the file exchange platform according to the confidentiality of the file. We hope Google makes it clear that all files shared from Google Photos are accessible to anyone with the link. Otherwise, sophisticated privacy controls like Google Drive will be appreciated massively.

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