Last week, we discovered that Google was preparing to disable Google Photos backups for a number of social media/messaging apps. The app’s strings explicitly mentioned the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason, stating that “in an effort to conserve internet resources, backup & sync has been turned off” for messaging apps. Today, that change is officially going into effect.
The message that was previously discovered has now been officially posted in the Google Photos community forum. A notification will also be appearing to users in the Google Photos app. This means that by default, photos and videos from the affected services will no longer be backed up. Users will have to manually go into the app and select those folders to be backed up.
Google’s statement only specifically mentions “messaging apps like WhatsApp, Messages, and Kik” as apps that will be affected by this change. However, in a teardown of the latest Google Photos APK, we found all the apps that are included. Folders whose names match the following regex expression will not be backed up:
This means that images from Facebook, Helo, Instagram, LINE, Messages, Messenger, Snapchat, Twitter, Viber, and WhatsApp will not be backed up. Previous backups from these folders will not be affected. As mentioned, you can still go to settings in the app and enable backups manually. Go to Settings > Back up & sync > Back up device folders if you have the old or new Photos UI to make changes.
We’ve seen Google make similar changes to save bandwidth during the pandemic, so something like this isn’t unusual, though it’s a bit late considering how long it’s been since the pandemic took over our lives.
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