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A Word of Caution about Photo Stream



Photo Stream is one of the new iOS5 features that promises to make life a little easier when it comes to getting photos off of your iDevice. It’s a part of Apple’s iCloud service and the setup is pretty quick. (Check this post.) But keep in mind that if you share your iCloud connected computer with a family member or friend and you’re out and about snapping some party pictures with your iDevice they’ll be seeing what comes in on your Photo Stream before you get home.

Hopefully we’ve all learned by now that anything that goes on the Internet in any fashion is really not private, but, at the moment, there’s no real easy way to delete a file once it is photostreaming into the iCloud. So, if you’re taking some photos that you’d rather remain private, you might want to consider turning off  the Automatic Upload funtion in Photo Stream before you do so.

There are other reasons beyond the compromising to want to delete photos from your Photo Stream as well. Reviewers who take reviews often take quite a few screen shots off of their iDevices. I’m not sure I want all of those hanging around for 30 days either.

Remember Photo Stream only keeps the last 1000 photos on your iDevice and after a photo has been there for 30 days it will disappear from the iDevice, but it will still be in the iCloud. If you’re picture heads up into the iCloud, you’ll need to do a reset to get rid of it, but that erases everything in your stream.



  1. patc890

    10/14/2011 at 3:27 am

    I thought you needed to plug the device into a power source before it would upload to iCloud?

  2. patc890

    10/14/2011 at 3:39 am

    Sorry that’s for Wi-Fi sync.

  3. Wes Campaigne

    10/15/2011 at 6:46 pm

    Umm, all of Apple’s documentation indicates that:

    1. iOS devices cache the most recent 1000 items from your Photo Stream. And these cached copies are scaled-down, as appropriate, to suit each devices’ resolution.

    2. Mac/PC devices, if configured to do so, will save items permanently. The copies they store are the original image (full-resolution and in its original format).

    3. iCloud itself only ever stores a photo for 30 days after it’s been added to Photo Stream. From a user perspective: after a month, the photo is silently and permanently erased from Apple’s servers.

    The article confuses these points, and is incorrect where it states that an image “will still be in the iCloud” after 30 days. The only place that Photo Stream will ever store images indefinitely is on your Mac or PC, where the behaviour is also the most configurable, and where you have direct control of what is stored and the freedom to erase any image at any time.

    Certainly, Apple should implement an ability to remove images from Photo Stream directly — rather than waiting for them to expire — but even in its current state, the genie-out-of-the-bottle alarmism seems pretty unwarranted.

    Photo Stream is only really intended for individual, personal use — the stream is not shared or published. It’s not even accessible from the iCloud website. It’s simply an online cache that’s intended to serve as a means of automatically, wirelessly syncing your photos such that

    1. Anything placed on the Camera Roll of an iOS device gets archived on your Mac and/or PC.

    2. Your most recent 1000 photos are always available and viewable on all your iOS devices. Regardless of what the original source of the photo was.

    3. Images you wish to store permanently on an iOS device can be saved from Photo Stream to other albums. (iOS 5 adds full, on-device management for albums in the Photos app.)

    which, together, are enough to eliminate almost any need to do any additional syncing of photos to or from an iOS device over USB… which is something that, to me at least, always felt extremely awkward.

  4. Sascha Jazbec

    10/16/2011 at 4:54 am

    The camera Mode on iOS5 needs a special button, say if I press that the pictures will go elsewhere but not into the standard archive roll and thus avoid to be auto-streamed. We all shoot pics that we surely do not want to appear across multiple devices.  People that use photo stream and not think/understand WILL run into privacy disasters, it is just a matter of time.

  5. C. Surch

    11/26/2012 at 4:57 pm

    I can’t get Photo Stream to work on my Mac Book Pro or my first gen iPad for the life of me and it is driving me crazy!!

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