I tried to use Shutterfly.com few months ago, and once I logged in, the interface suggested to connect to my Google photos account, to retrieve photos. The process was long, until I realized it automatically pulls all my Google photos (thousands).

I thought it will merely use Google API to show a link to my photos... but practically it pulled all of my photos, without letting me cancel the process!

Few days later I decided not to use Shutterfly anymore, and found out that in order to delete all of my of photos from Shutterfly, I can only do it by selecting less than 900 photos, and press delete each time. Quite a pain, if you have thousands!

I also opened the Shutterfly photos Trash, to make sure nothing left there, and I permanently emptied it.

The irreversible surprise:

Every now and then, I get a promotional email from Shutterfly, which contains a preview of bunch of my photos, which I forcefully deleted from Shutterfly!

I logged in to my account, but my photos are not shown there - it is only shown in the Shutterfly email message.

So what's going on there? Does Shutterfly own my photos forever, even when I deleted all of it ?

I hope I missed something, but it seems like a major invasion of privacy by Shutterfly service.

  • 3
    I'd suggest you contact them and complain. As @mattdm explained in his answer, it's the idea of using the deleted images that is a problem and you should draw that to their attention and see how they respond.
    – StephenG
    Aug 6 '17 at 0:19

I'm not a lawyer, but the terms of use say:

You will retain ownership of such User Submitted Materials, and you grant us and our designees a worldwide, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free, perpetual irrevocable right and license, with right of sublicense (through multiple tiers), to use, reproduce, distribute (through multiple tiers), create derivative works of and publicly display such User Submitted Materials solely in connection with the production or provision of any product or service you request or to show you how your User Submitted Materials would appear in our products or services.

Key points:

  1. The grant is perpetual and irrevocable.
  2. They can do two things with this:
    1. "Produce or provision" a product or service you request, or
    2. Show you how your materials would appear in their products.

A promotional email showing how your materials would appear to be exactly this last thing. It seems a little sleazy to me that they do this with deleted images, but, uh, that's the first bit for you.

So, they don't own your photos, but you've given them the right to do this specific thing forever.

From a privacy point of view, there is some consolation, because the specific rights you've given are limited to showing you how your photographs would look. You haven't authorized them to, for example, use the photographs as examples for other people or the public at large. There's still the risk of a data breach or something like that, but you have that risk anyway whenever you have digital artifacts on a system which isn't powered off and in a safe at the bottom of the ocean.

  • 1
    Thanks for the delayed answer. I think this should raise a red flag to all Shutterfly users out there, since in a single click you connected to your private photo storage (e.g. Google Photos) - Shutterfly got a hold on all of your life photos forever! No Undo!
    – Noam Manos
    Aug 7 '17 at 10:41
  • 2
    ^ Thanks for the detailed answer I meant (auto speller mistake).
    – Noam Manos
    Aug 9 '17 at 18:38
  • Seems like ...solely in connection with the production or provision of any product or service you request... is a very important phrase here. As I read it, the only things they can do with your files are to provide the service you requested and offer you other services.
    – Caleb
    Sep 9 '17 at 5:28
  • @Caleb That's followed by or to show you how (your photos) would appear on products. Together, these are the two things I list in my answer as things they can do. I don't think it's any help to ignore the second one, especially as that appears to be exactly the situation here.
    – mattdm
    Sep 9 '17 at 5:39
  • @mattdm I agree 100% with your answer, and just wanted to add emphasis to the limitation given the OP's concern about privacy. Sorry I wasn't clear about that.
    – Caleb
    Sep 11 '17 at 14:14

Shutterfly customer support responded after all:

We do not have your pictures stored on Shutterfly. You have received the promotional email because the images still appear in the My Shutterfly section. This section was created before your images were deleted off your account. This section is only designed to show you how your images would appear on certain items. There is not a way to remove this section but I can assure you that your images were deleted. If you no longer want to receive these emails, I can assist you with closing your Shutterfly account.

  • 11
    I love the your images were delete, except that they weren't, and you can't actually delete them
    – Peter M
    Aug 8 '17 at 14:33

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