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How to delete Google Photos

Google Photos offers you a great service – to automatically backup your photos and keep them on the cloud. However, at what price? Your privacy. Google can scan your photos, identify your face and track your location. No company should have this much information about you. Find out how to delete your Google photos.

Jomilė Nakutavičiūtė

Jomilė Nakutavičiūtė

How to delete Google Photos

Why would you want to delete Google Photos?

Users are attracted to Google Photos by the unlimited storage capacity, cross-platform syncing, and sharing opportunities. Some might also enjoy its photo recognition AI, which identifies faces and objects in users’ photos and generates searchable tag words.

However, Google Photos’ data collection capabilities have expanded significantly since its launch in 2015. These same features can give Google some uncomfortably detailed insights into your life:

  • Recognize friends in your photos and infer familial relationships – whether or not those people are tagged.
  • Form a profile of your favorite activities based on the photos you upload.
  • Determine the locations of your photos based on landmarks – even if you’ve turned off your device’s location settings.
Google Photos' AI search recognizes the landmarks of Yosemite National Park
Google Photos’ powerful AI image search at work. These photos were taken in Yosemite National Park, but none of them were geolocated or tagged there.

For some, this is a fair tradeoff. For others, this represents an unacceptable invasion of their privacy. If you’re determined to wipe your Google Photos account clean, read on below.

How to delete Google photos from the device only

Google Photos creates two copies of your shots – one on your device and one on the app. This can take up a chunk of memory on your device. So if you are travelling, for example, and you ran out of space you may want to delete copies on your device but still keep them on the cloud. Just make sure that your photos have been synced.

  1. Open the “Google Photos” app.
  2. delete google photos from device: step 1
  3. Click on the profile icon on the top right corner.
  4. delete google photos from device: step 2
  5. Go to “Backup & sync.” If your photos haven’t previously been backed up, turn it on and wait for the photos to sync. Unsynced will show an icon of a crossed cloud. Once your photos have been synced, switch “Backup & sync” off.
  6. delete google photos from device: step 3
  7. Then scroll down to “Free up space.”
  8. delete google photos from device: step 4

    It will delete any synced photos from your photo gallery.

    delete google photos from device: step 5

How to delete Google Photos from the cloud only

If you have had enough of Google, you could delete photos from your cloud and all other synced devices but still keep them on your phone. The original images will stay in your Camera folder, which you can find under File Manager if you own an Android device or your Photo Gallery if you are an iPhone user. However, once the sync is enabled again, all photos will be synced and will reappear on your Google Photos account.

  1. Open the “Google Photos” app on your phone and click on the profile icon on the top right corner.
  2. delete google photos from cloud: step 1
  3. Go to “Backup & sync.” Make sure that backup is disabled.
  4. delete google photos from cloud: step 2
  5. Go to the Google Photos website and sign in with your Google account.
  6. delete google photos from cloud: step 3
  7. Select all the photos you want to delete and click on the bin icon in the top right-hand corner.
  8. delete google photos from cloud: step 4

How to delete Google Photos from all platforms

This might not be the best option if you haven’t saved your photos anywhere else, so if you want to keep them, back them up somewhere before you continue. If you delete synced photos from the Google Photos app, it will be deleted from everywhere – your device, the Google Photos app, the Google Photos website, and your file manager app. This will happen even if your Backup & Sync feature is on and whether you’re using an Android or iPhone.

  1. Go to your “Google Photos” app.
  2. delete google photos from all platforms: step 1
  3. Select the individual photos or albums you wish to delete and click on the bin icon.
  4. delete google photos from all platforms: step 2

How to permanently delete (or retrieve) your photos

Even if you deleted your photos from all devices and platforms, they still won’t be deleted permanently. This might be good news if you deleted them accidentally and want to retrieve them – or bad news if you want to get rid of them. Google Photos moves all your deleted photos and videos to the trash, which stay there for 60 days. After this period, they are deleted automatically.

To manage the photos in your bin:

  1. Open the “Google Photos” app and click on the “Trash.”
  2. delete google photos permanently: step 1
  3. Select photos and videos you want to delete permanently and hit “Delete.”
  4. delete google photos permanently: step 2

Alternatives to Google Photos Library

Google Photos isn’t the most privacy-friendly cloud storage. Google scans and geo-tags your photos to create an even more accurate user profile and to serve you targeted ads. Google Drive has also been hacked on multiple occasions before, and the photos were used to blackmail celebrities.

Google Photos isn’t super user-friendly either. It makes photo management confusing, and without guides like this one, you might end up accidentally wiping your photos for good.

However, some alternatives care about your privacy. For example, NordLocker uses modern cryptography, like Argon2, AES256, ECC (with XChaCha20, EdDSA, and Poly1305), to protect your files from snoopers and it’s zero-knowledge policy ensures that you’ll be the only one who knows what’s in your locker.

You can also use NordVPN's Meshnet function to access photos remotely, even if they're hosted on another device. Meshnet allows you to link multiple devices with encrypted tunnels. For example, if your photos are stored on a home computer, you can access them from anywhere using another device on the same Meshnet network.

To read more about alternatives to Google Photos, check out our blog post.

Also available in: Deutsch.

Jomilė Nakutavičiūtė
Jomilė Nakutavičiūtė Jomilė Nakutavičiūtė
Jomilė is a content writer who loves to investigate the latest Internet privacy and security news. She thrives on looking for solutions to problems and sharing her knowledge with NordVPN readers and customers.