Why the strange uploads to @Flickr?

I’ve got 58,765 photos on Flickr, so far. These have 8,618,102 views at the moment, running at about 5,000 a day. The top count this last week was 11,766. Not that I’m into stats. I just want to make clear that I’m deeply invested in Flickr, as a photographer. I’m also a “Pro” customer, meaning I pay for the service.

But man, it’s trying me lately.

The main thing isn’t the UI changes, which are confusing, and seem to be happening constantly. (Though I’m sure they’re not. I just seem to be discovering new or changed things constantly.)

No, the main problem is that large quantities of photos I don’t want being automatically uploading are uploading to Flickr: 6,788 so far, all in an album called “auto uploads.” (All are private as well, so you can’t see them.) I don’t know where they’re coming from — other than me — or how they’re getting up there.

I thought maybe it was the new Uploadr app, which I downloaded a while back but never set up. To check, I just logged into it and went through a setup series that included these:



Interesting that the default is to suck every photo off your computer and put it on Flickr. Also a bummer that Flickr assumes that photographers live entirely inside Apple’s photo silos. But those things are beside the point, because I keep approximately no photos on my laptop. In fact, I’m glad that Apple, with its latest rev of the Photos app (which replaces the late iPhoto), includes this:


See, I shoot a lot of photos with my iPhone. (As the saying goes, the best camera is the one you have with you.) The iPhone only exports its shots to Apple’s Photos app. I don’t keep mine there, though. So it’s good that I can now “Export Unmodified Original” — which I do to an external drive, since my MacBook Air only has a 500Gb drive, which isn’t big enough for lots of photos.

(With the old iPhoto app, dragging photos from the app stripped out all the metadata, including EXIF fields. To avoid that, one needed a hack of sorts: exposing the “package contents” —hidden — finding “masters” and copying the originals out of there. So thanks, Apple for fixing that.)

Okay, I just checked with IFTTT to see if I’m running a rogue “recipe,” but there’s nothing close.

Could it be Dropbox? I’ve done nothing with it since early June, and many of the photos I’m seeing are not in my Dropbox, far as I know.

So any ideas you have are welcome.

No rush. I’ll be offline for the next few days. But I do want to solve the problem.

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  1. Susan F. Heywood’s avatar

    Do you take photos with your phone? I had noticed these mystery Flickr updates on my Android phone (Samsung Note4) and discovered where they were coming from so I could turn them off. Hopefully there is a similar set up on the iPhone.

    Do you have the Flickr app on your phone? If you do, it has a setting called AutoUploader. This needs to be switched off.

    Uploads are by default private, so they are positioning this as a backup service.

    I don’t like it because I shoot tons of stuff that is temporary and of no use to anyone but me (sort of a visual to-do list in a retail environment.)

  2. Owen Byrne’s avatar

    Do you have the flickr app on your phone? I believe that’s the culprit. You can turn it off in the app’s settings.

  3. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks Owen and Susan. Most of the uploaded photos are not ones shot on the phone (or the iPad); but those are included. Alas, I need to log in to disable auto upload on the hand-helds, and I can’t find my Flickr login/password. (Dunno why, but my browsers don’t remember those and neither do I, apparently.) And now I go into an offline tunnel for the next few days, so problem solving will have to wait. But thanks again.

  4. Rolf’s avatar

    What worries me more is that i dont know a way to leave Flickr – an officially supported way. I want to get out all my pictures at once … Its a lock in afaik.

  5. Ellen Miller’s avatar

    Same thing happened to me — the new Flickr uploader was well on its way to uploading all 80K of my photos from my desk top when I saw what was going on. I think I deleted it from the desk top as I couldn’t figure out how to control it. And I did have to change the settings on my iphone to stop the automatic settings there. There may be a less drastic way to fix the desk top uploads, but for the moment I feel a lot safer! Trust you are well.

  6. Rebecca Caroe’s avatar

    Doc – I can’t solve your problem but here’s a quick funny. I tweeted your article link and got a response from @FlickrHelp who clearly didn’t see click through to read your post!


  7. the head lemur’s avatar

    Folks have explained the how, but from the ad contratian comes the why:

    “We’ll Never Sell Your Personal Information. Unless We Need The Money.”

    you may have a friend in jesus, but trust me, online sites are not….

  8. Owen Byrne’s avatar

    So a while back, Apple changed the Photo App so that all your photos get sent to your phone by default. So it wouldn’t just be photos taken on your phone.

  9. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Rolf, one of the big appeals of Flickr for me from the start was its generous APIs: https://www.flickr.com/services/api/. I don’t know if it’s still the case, but Flickr in the beginning made it very easy to export all your photos, with lots (perhaps all) metadata. This actually encouraged other companies to take advantage of Flickr, unfairly (for example, allowing customers to move everything from Flickr to another service). But I don’t know where that’s at now.

    I do know that photography on the whole has drifted away from artistic/camera-based to social/phone-based, and Flickr has been part of that. Bums me out.

  10. Rolf’s avatar

    Hi Doc, thanks for reminding me of the API. I completely forgot about that – thus i do not have the skills to write a script. After browsing the web it seems there are some community driven solutions which could help. What annoys me is that Flickr does not officially provide an export feature like wordpress provides for content. I would immediately use flickr again if that would be the case. Right now i am evaluating a hosted OwnCloud service.

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