How to keep all your private photos off iCloud

How do you keep your personal, intimate photos away from leaks and hacks? Don't leave them online!

You don't have to be a celebrity to be concerned about your privacy. If you want to take nude or sexual photos, that's your business. Whether or not you choose to share them, also your business. And if you want to back them up to iCloud, more power to you. If you don't want your private photos online, or the photos of your kids or family or anything at all, that's fine too.

Here's how to turn off iCloud backup for your photos and keep them private.

1. Turn off iCloud Photo Library

iCloud Photo Library syncs every photo you take on your iPhone up to Apple's servers and then syncs it back down to any other Apple devices you have logged into the same account. That includes personal, private, even intimate photos. It doesn't differentiate or distinguish cinnamon buns from, well, human buns. That's your job.

So, if your camera roll if filled up with photos you don't want on Apple's servers — or anyone else's servers, you can turn off iCloud Photo Library. You'll lose you backup, but you might decide the piece of mind is worth it.

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap on iCloud.
  3. Tap on Photos.
  4. Toggle iCloud Photo Library to Off.

If you later change your mind and decide you do want to backup your photos to iCloud, you can toggle it back on.

2. Turn off My Photo Stream

iCloud Photo Library has more or less replaced My Photo Stream but it's still there for people who have been using it. If you're one of them, and you're now concerned about just how much flesh tone or family business is included in those pics, you can shut it down too.

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap on iCloud.
  3. Tap on Photos.
  4. Toggle My Photo Stream to Off.

If you later change your mind and decide you do want to My Photo Stream to live again, you can toggle it back on.

3. Delete photos in chat or IM

If you don't just take private photos but share them, then it's possible your messaging client of choice has copies of those photos stored as well. Whether it's Apple's iMessage, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, Line, or any of the half-dozen or so Google apps that do messaging, if you want your pictures gone, you'll have to get rid of them there as well.

Some apps let you set photos to automatically evaporate after a short period of time. Others require you delete them manually. Take a look through the settings and choose the options that make sense to you.

You might even be able to manually or bulk delete any photos already in the app. Just realize there's almost no way to make sure the person you sent the photos to has likewise deleted them. Saving, screenshots, even taking photos of the screen with another phone or camera are all possibilities.

The only truly deleted photo is the one never shared or taken. Everything else is mitigation.

4. Delete local backups

If you want a backup of your photos — all your photos — but don't want them online, you can backup your photos to your Mac or Windows PC using iTunes or any camera capture app. It makes sure you'll still have your photos in the event you lose or break your iPhone but it also means there'll be copies on your computer, which is another place you'll have to protect.

At the end of the day, decide how important having the photos are to you. If they're treasured memories you'd be devasted to lose, then back them up. Even online if it's easier. If they're just for fun and you'd be crushed if they ever got out, treat them as disposable. Don't back them up and delete them as soon as possible.

The only copy that can't get out is no copy at all.

How do you protect your private photos?

What's your strategy for protecting your personal photos? Do you back up? Do you delete? Share your strategy in the comments below!