Thousands of personal photos are heading to the digital graveyard


According to estimates, around 2,080 photos per UK adult, per year are digitally harvested. Survey data from image data experts Pholio, suggests the average person takes 40 photos each week, primarily using smartphones and mobile devices.

With so many selfies (more than 1 billion per year in the UK alone), plus pet snaps and pictures of food, the clear majority (78%) couldn’t say how many images and videos they have stored away. This figure is in the tens of thousands per family household with files stored across computers, mobile devices, removable drives, social networks, and cloud backups.

94% have at some point struggled to find pictures or video taken in the past with 56% claiming this to be a regular issue.

With physical photo albums on the decline (just 33% now use them), online cloud storage and local hard drives have taken the place of our desk drawer or bookshelf. 77% now rely on cloud storage such as Google Photos and yet 53% say they are concerned by privacy breaches when putting their content online.

Last month, hundreds of iPhone users began tweeting about a largely unknown feature which uses image recognition technology to analyse stored photos. Whilst the same technology is a feature within Google Photos, many people did not realise that their own devices have been quietly tagging and categorising their content for over a year.

“Photo album is a phrase synonymous with sites like Facebook and the real things are now harder to come by.” says Simon Randall, CEO of Pholio. “It’s clear that many people are worried about privacy yet are storing vast amounts of personal content in the cloud with providers who are profiling their collections. Thanks to smartphones, most of our photos automatically end up both tagged and in the cloud – stored on platforms like iCloud and GDrive.”

Simon adds, “We are certainly creating more visual content than ever before. The problem is that for every automatic upload to the cloud or sub-folder saved on a local hard drive, you could well be adding hundreds of files. The chances are that many of these images and videos will sit for years collecting digital dust – and many of them will never be seen again.”

In partnership with academics from the University of Oxford, London start-up Pholio has condensed the power of cloud based visual search technology to the size of a book. The Pholio smart drive can safely store or simply access media. The maker says it allows an incredible level of search and discovery across all a user’s photos and home videos, whether online or on a local network.


The software in Pholio automatically checks all images in a user’s ‘album’ against 20,000 in-built search terms, from ‘birthday’ to ‘license plate’ and ‘house renovation’. By keying a relevant search term into a browser on a connected TV screen, tablet, phone or laptop at home, families can search for all sorts of things in their own photo collections – from day trips to Bangor to bungie jumps in Niagara.

20,000 custom search terms are built into Pholio, and owners can teach it to recognise their friends and relatives by name. The 20,000 search terms can still be used if the device is run offline.  If the box is connected to the internet, owners can search for anything including new search terms set by the user.

With many consumers owning a myriad of devices, from tablets to phones to digital cameras, Pholio has been created as a way of condensing and exploring important family archives.  The basic Pholio device will manage collections of up to 140,000 images, the equivalent of 875 standard photo albums.

Simon adds, “With the growing volume of data coming from imaging and connected devices in the home there is a critical need for local processing and control. This will save cloud streaming costs, increase response speeds, and provide choices that don’t require handing over control of your data. Pholio is step 1 in our drive to bring data control and ownership back into the home through harnessing developments in deep learning technology that everyone can make use of.”