Turning off iCloud Photos for privacy? How-to and alternatives (#tech)

ft. Dropbox + E2EE storage options (Cryptomator & ProtonDrive) | re. the #ApplePrivacyLetter

Want to avoid getting your private photos scanned by the most powerful company in the world, or just use this moment as an exercise in making sure you’re not too reliant on a single company’s ecosystem?

Here’s my current scoping of approaches which I’m hoping to pull off by end of September FirstWeek in good time for iOS 15.

I welcome any better suggestions. Follow me to receive a follow-up article before iOS 15 explaining eventual choice.


You have to toggle this off in iCloud settings on each device. E.g. iPhone:

I’ve got 102GB in iCloud, and apparently only 20GB on iPhone device and only 4GB on MacBook (can anyone explain difference?)

I’m not sure here, but I guess those which haven’t downloaded on-device already will only be up in iCloud.com so you have to log on there, retrieve them and then wipe that.

Can you fully ‘turn off’ Photos on iCloud.com or is the best just to trash everything?

My Alternatives

A: Trust Dropbox with Everything

  1. Back up: New Photos Only

All Photos wouldn’t be a shortcut to backing up entire iCloud.com because I believe Dropbox iOS can only pull from iPhone device

  1. From: Camera Roll

You can only choose one option here, so I’m assuming Camera Roll covers everything including videos!

The irony about this approach is that Dropbox has never claimed to use E2EE so it’s probably just as susceptible to scanning too!

As are these alternatives: GoogleDrive (if you really wanna let it all hang out)
RethinkFiles.com from my pal Will (if he’s still growing that now he’s working on the other type of crypto..)

EFF have always given Dropbox 4 or 5 stars so still better than Google Drive, so probably fairly trustworthy, but if you wanna make sure personal photos stay private, here’s a better strategy that is more time-consuming

B: Trust Dropbox with some + E2EE Storage with rest

  1. Set From: Favorites

Then default is iPhone only and Favoriting is tantamount to “Send to Dropbox”

Problem with this is: on a 64GB iPhone I’m probably gonna fill up device quick, and not sure if easy way of deleting everything except Favorited.

  1. E2EE Cloud backup privates

AirDrop the photos to Mac Finder and upload to cloud encrypted.

a) ProtonDrive

Currently got 15GB as part of Visionary plan which can only access on web. Big plus is sharing encrypted files with share link (not sure if Share iCloud link currently pretends to be similarly E2EE).

Have feature requested moving to proper storage sizes (hundreds GB at least) when Drive moves out of Beta. But they move slow so can’t rely.

An iOS app which did auto-upload like Dropbox would solve the problem entirely but I can’t see this coming til ‘22 if ever.

Alternatives: Tresorit (but VC funded now so…)

b) Meanwhile for scale, use a Device encryptor: e.g. Cryptomator

More easily stick Finder files in a Cryptomator Finder folder to encrypt before automatically going up onto Dropbox. This one’s fun to see the cryptography in action. The folder & file names are a bunch of random-ass letters in Dropbox.com. Just imagine a snoop getting to the right folder and finding that. Oh the joy!

Alternatives: Boxmator is a Dropbox recommended alternative.
Don’t bother with Dropbox “Vault”: it’s still not E2EE and Dropbox can still snoop. More like a 2nd password.

Appendix: updates

9th Feb: reformatted subtitle to remove hashtags & place below title for readability

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