If you have concerns about a single company knowing a ton of information about your privacy, chances are that you’re considering alternatives to Google products.
For example; Google Photos which replaced Picasa some years ago. Google’s AI allows it to scan your images for recognition of faces, brands, locations, and preferences, and subsequently target ads and other information towards you. The data mining practices of the tech giant is the primary reason people turn to other companies for their needs.
This sort of corporate surveillance is getting less and less popular amongst consumers in the age where cybersecurity and privacy are the hottest issues. The popularity of encrypted file storage solutions is a direct result of that.
You might even be using some alternative programs already. Fortunately, there are several solutions of the sort available for your media content. And, in addition to prioritizing privacy, they offer the same features as Google Photos, such as being free of charge, having unlimited storage and back-up, collages and search capabilities amongst others.
Some people prefer to share their photos and videos amongst friends and family only, without having ads shoved in their face every time they go online. Others have privacy concerns and don’t want the company to store information about where they went to on vacation last summer.
Perhaps you’re one of those people. Or perhaps you just want some extra features Google Photos doesn’t provide. Whatever the case may be, there are fortunately several free options available to consumers like you. We tried to put together a list of a few of them to help you choose the best solution.
If you’re looking for a free program that’d allow you to customize and share your photos amongst your circle of people, you should consider Cluster. Available for desktop, mobile and tablet platforms, Cluster was founded by Brenden Mulligan and Taylor Hughes in 2012. Since then, it’s undergone extensive app surgery and now offers a lot more options than its initial release did.
The best way to describe it would be a “private Instagram for your loved ones”. When you create an album that you want to share with specific people, you send them invitations via e-mail and after they’ll have connected, they’d be able to add their own photos, like and comment. You can also accept invitations from other people to view and interact with their photo albums.
Cluster is a cloud-based storage with sync and back-up enabled to make it easier for you to access your photo feed from various devices. Your feed shows the albums that you’ve created and been invited to collaborate on. Each album is shown to a restricted group of people – the creator and the people they’ve invited. In other words, even if you invited some friends to collaborate on one album, they won’t get access to any of your other albums unless you send them an invitation. This ensures that your photo streams’ privacy is customized to whatever you want it to be.
Indeed, Cluster does seem to take privacy very seriously and although it does collect some personal info when a user signs up, it claims to only share it with their partners to improve the service.
Although not specifically targeted towards photographers, Nextcloud is a popular corporate choice as an alternative to Google Photos. It offers open-source solutions that are compliant and certified in accordance with the relevant privacy laws and standards. It was launched in 2016 by the founder of ownCloud Frank Karlitschek together with other entrepreneurs.
Since then, Nextcloud’s gotten so popular even the government of Germany hired it to build a private cloud last year. Given that the GDPR was looming then, it’s no surprise that they were concerned with privacy, like many others. Nextcloud’s clients also include companies like Siemens and Raiffeisen Bank. The company’s very mission is about controlling one’s own data and their products are built on the basis of privacy-by-design.
The Nextcloud Files is a sync-and-share solution that offers easy access to everyone in the network and no third party’s able to gain access. The company doesn’t use any public clouds but instead, offers self-hosting – the server is created by the user. The files can be accessed on any platform – desktop, iOS or Android, so you don’t need to do any manual transfer of photos between your devices.
With Nextcloud Photo Add-on called Gallery created 2017 and available on GitHub, you can create a media gallery on your Nextcloud server. It allows you to create albums that you can customize and configure. All the features of Nextcloud apply. Unfortunately, Nextcloud isn’t a free solution, although the code for Gallery is available on GitHub for all.
This option is for those of you who prioritize privacy above all else. Like Nextcloud, Piwigo offers open-source corporate as well as personal solutions. Piwigo was written in PHP and MySQL in 2001 by Pierrick Le Gall as a free and open-source system and became multilingual a year later. Since then, it’s undergone a lot of developments, including entering the mobile apps market, arrivals of various plug-ins and, most importantly, a move to GitHub in 2015.
That move is what’s made the program what it is today – a tool for photography aficionados who can either opt for the Piwigo cloud or use the code to customize and host it to suit their preferences. It also serves as a playground for developers who can add their own features. Most of the time, those features are available to all users as well. So, with Piwigo, you can personalize your photos to your heart’s content – either with the cloud or with your own code.
Some features include tagging, sorting by date, watermark, and themes. Piwigo also allows for upload of pictures of various sizes for better compatibility with different resolutions. Given Google Photos’ tendency to compress any image which size is over the limit to 1024 px, Piwigo is a clear winner in that regard.
All of these features and other extensions make up a total of around 600 extensions, and it seems to be increasing day by day. The open-source approach means that anyone can also correct any code and squash any bugs in any extension.
The end-to-end encryption of the Piwigo cloud, combined with the number of features on offer, is what makes Piwigo so popular with individuals and companies alike. Users include Societe de Trois Vallees and the French Swimming Federation.
Another service to offer solid encryption is Shoebox. Founded in 2012 by Steve Cosman, the Canadian program has taken off very quickly and over 2 million photos were uploaded to the cloud in the first week alone. The main draw of Shoebox is the unlimited storage capacity.
In addition to that, the media content platform offers synchronized all-devices access to your stream (desktop, mobile, tablet) that you can set up to auto-upload your photos to your Shoebox account. So, if you were on holiday and took photos with your phone and your tablet, you can go home and watch all of them on your computer without having to do anything else if your auto-sync is enabled on Shoebox.
There’s a drawback, though – Shoebox, unlike Piwigo, doesn’t offer uploads of photos over 10 megapixels and compresses the ones over that limit. However, there is a Shoebox Pro option that allows for upload of images of all sizes. So the program’s free version would be very useful for a blogger who uses compressed images anyway.
Other features on offer include “Time Travel” – an option to sort your photos by date and location, a sharing option for friends and family to view your photos, and the “This Day in History” option which is very popular with users. Another important draw of Shoebox is how seriously they take privacy. Although there are “Share on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or e-mail” buttons, the files are backed up on multiple servers and the policy of Shoebox does not allow them to own the user’s photos.