How To Delete Photos From iCloud Permanently: Is There Permanent Deletion?

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Do you want to how to delete photos from iCloud? Are you concerned that your photos will be stored on Apple’s iCloud servers forever? This article will cover these two topics: First, how to delete photos from iCloud, and second, the issue of permanent deletion from the cloud.

How To Delete Photos From iCloud (Somewhat) Permanently


Here is a method to delete your photos from the iCloud. Note that this may not work exactly the same way with your particular version of iOS. Call Apple support or go to your nearest Apple store for help:

  • Step 1: Using your iPad or iPhone, open your Photos app.
  • Step 2: Select “Photos” (usually at the bottom of the screen).
  • Step 3: Select “Edit” in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.
  • Step 4: Tap on any photo you want to delete. A blue checkmark will appear on each selected photo.
  • Step 5: Select the trashcan icon in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.
  • Step 6: When the confirmation bubble pops up, select confirm.Once you have done this, you need to clear your “Recently Deleted” album to “permanently” delete them:
  • Once you have done this, you need to clear your “Recently Deleted” album to “permanently” delete them:
  •  album to “permanently” delete them:
  • Step 1: Using your iPad or iPhone, open your Photos app.
  • Step 2: Select the album that says: “Recently Deleted.”
  • Step 3: Select “Edit” in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.
  • Step 4: Select “Delete All” in the lower left-hand corner of the screen.
  • Step 5: When the confirmation bubble pops up, select confirm.

The Big Question: Is There Permanent Deletion?

The above procedure is the way to remove photos from your iPad or iPhone and the iCloud. It can also be used to delete videos.


Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that your photos will be removed “permanently” from iCloud’s servers, even if they appear to be deleted from your phone or iPad.

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Why is this? Once you upload a photo or an email to a cloud provider such as Apple or Google, that data is stored somewhere in a database.


Those databases are backed up. The databases filled with your information, such as photos, emails, contacts, etc., have to be backed up in case of a serious problem such as a hacking or catastrophic outage.


How long these database backups are kept is something only the individual companies will know.


It would be reasonable to assume that backups would exist for at least the past week or past month, most likely the past three months, and possibly the past six months or past year.

Apple’s Privacy Policy And Encryption


Here is a link to Apple’s privacy policy. You will notice that on this main page, filled with reassurances and nice photos, that they do not mention anything at all about your data and how it is stored, or how your data will be removed upon request.


If you dig deeper into the privacy policy section, you will find that Apple promises to protect your data with “end to end encryption.” This is a fancy way of saying that your data is encoded, much like a secret message requiring a cipher that might be used in the Da Vinci Code.

The data, or in this case, the photo, is scrambled on both ends (end to end) and special keys (long, incomprehensible strings of letters, numbers, and punctuation marks) are required to unscramble the data.


This supposedly means that only you can see your personal information, such as your photos or videos, when you login to your iPad or iPhone.


Apple provides more information about their encryption on this page within their privacy policy section.


You will note that while they talk extensively about your data being encrypted so that not even an Apple employee can see it, they do not mention anything whatsoever about “permanent deletion.”


It is entirely possible that your encrypted data could be stored on their servers indefinitely.


It is possible, although unlikely, that a hacker could crack that encryption and get into your photos. The reason it is unlikely is that it would take a lot of computing power to break those encryption codes.


The weakest link in this system is actually your personal devices and username and password. If you have an easy to guess password, a hacker could break into your account. This is why Apple recommends two-factor authentication, which involves using a password and an authentication code. You are likely already using this and just did not know what it was called.


You can set up two-factor authentication in the Password and Security menu of your device’s security settings. If you are running iOS 10.3 or earlier, go into the settings for iCloud to set up two-factor authentication for iCloud.

EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)


In May of 2018, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect. This law was designed to protect the privacy of people using websites and cloud services such as iCloud.


The law applies to people who reside in the European Union, however, because the Internet is global, most companies are opting to comply with this law across the board for all their customers, even in other countries.

The short version of this legislation is that companies cannot just wantonly use your private information willy nilly without your permission.


Also, you have a right to be “forgotten,” which means, when you are done using a cloud service such as iCloud, you can ask to have all your personal data removed.


Now, in reality, a company cannot go back in time and delete your information from a stored backup. It would not be feasible to do so. Stored backups are “frozen,” and any attempt to go into a backup and change the information therein would in effect ruin the backup.


A backup has to be kept in a frozen state for it to be a clean copy that can be used to recreate data in the event of an emergency.


The same thing goes for server logs. Server logs are logs of what transactions have happened on a server (the computer where the iCloud information is stored, for example).

GDPR

Server logs are regularly archived. Most server logs are rotated and deleted automatically by automated scripts.


However, sometimes, those scripts can fail.


Either way, whether companies are complying to the full extent of the GDPR law is a question mark. In reality, the tech people who are managing the servers and backups are probably more concerned with making sure the systems are functioning properly.


The lawmakers in the European Union simply would not know enough, nor have the man power, to inspect and review each and every computer system to see that backups and logs were deleted in a timely manner, if at all.


Furthermore, it may be sufficient that Apple has end to end encryption of your data such as photos and videos. This is not clear from Apple’s website. Also, if you are not a citizen of the European Union, the law does not apply to your data. So who knows if Apple has a different level of security for, say, Americans and Canadians.

The Bottom Line: Don’t Trust That Anything Is Deleted “Permanently”


The short version of this story is: If you upload something, such as a photo or a video, to the cloud, do not expect that it is ever fully or permanently deleted.


It may still be floating around somewhere in the form of a backup.


You should know this in advance, in case you had an idea that you would temporarily upload some photos that you might not want on a server forever.

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We will not assume that you have bad intentions here, such as taking photos of an illegal activity such as robbing a bank.


Perhaps you just wanted to take some sexy photos of your spouse for your own private use, and temporarily back them up to the iCloud to move them over to another device.


Well, guess what. That is a bad idea if you want full privacy.


Our advice is: Do not use the iCloud for photos where privacy is your biggest concern. Move those photos over manually via USB connection.


Now, if you have already made the mistake of taking sexy selfies and uploading them to the iCloud, and you now regret it, do not panic.


Most likely, Apple is rotating and deleting their server backups on a regular basis, and your pictures will eventually be long gone.


Just don’t pull an Anthony Weiner and post these selfies via private message on Twitter!


Should you purchase software to delete iCloud photos? It is probably not necessary.

What Is In the Cloud Is In The Cloud

Remember, if you know how to delete photos from iCloud, you still have no guarantee they are gone forever. The moral of the story is: Be careful with what you upload!